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Romain Rolland 
And Gandhi 

Romain Rolland 
And Gandhi 

(Letters, Diary Extracts, Articles, Etc.) 



Ja.wa.ha.rla.1 Nehru 



September 1976 {. Asvina 1898) 


Printed in India 

Price: Rs. 25.00 • $ 7.50 • £ 2.50 

Published by the Director Publications Division 

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Government of India 

Patiala House New Delhi 110001 

Sales Emporia • Publications Division: 

Super Bazar Connaught Circus New Delhi 100001 
8 Esplanade East Calcutta 700001 
Botawala Chambers Sir P. M. Road Bombay 400001 
Shastri Bhavan 35 Haddows Road Madras 600006 

Printed by Shantilal Harjivan Shah Navajivan Press Ahmedabad 14 


Our grateful thanks are due to Gandhi Smarak San- 
grahalaya, Ahmedabad; Shrimati Indira Gandhi; Jawaharlal 
Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi; Miss 
Madeleine Slade (Mirabehn) ; Shri Narayan Desai; Navajivan 
Trust, All me dab ad ; Mr. R. A. Francis; Rashtriya Gandhi 
Sangrahalaya, Delhi; and Madame Romain Rolland for 
help and co-operation in the preparation of this volume. 


I have always found it difficult to write about Mahatma 
Gandhi. To write about the meeting of two great minds like Gandhi 
and Romain Rolland is still more difficult. For several deca- 
des I served under Gandhi’s leadership and I was powerfully 
influenced and moulded by him. That period was one of his- 
toric significance for India and perhaps, to some extent, for 
the rest of the world. Those of us who were associated with 
Gandhi during these momentous years cannot easily form a 
clear and objective opinion of this period or of the great man 
under whose shadow we lived. When I think of Gandhi, my 
mind is filled with emotion and innumerable pictures come 
up before me. How then can I write about him? 

Yet I have gladly agreed to say a few words as an intro- 
duction to this ninth volume* of the “Cahiers Romain Roll- 
and” which contains Romain Rolland’s letters and writings 
about Mahatma Gandhi. In the turmoil and agonies of the 
world today, I think that Gandhiji’s message has a peculiar 
significance for all of us, whether we live in Asia, Europe or 
America. We live under the shadow of nuclear and thermo- 
nuclear bombs and the dreadful news of test explosions of 

* The text of Nehru’s above Foreword was written for the ninth 
volume of Cahiers Romain Rolland which was to appear in 1957. 
For technical reasons the publication of the book was postponed to 
the Gandhi Centenary. When this volume, which was now numbered 
nineteen, came out in 1969, the text of the Foreword was left out 

I am sure Jawaharlal Nehru would certainly have wished that 
it should appear in the English edition. 

Marie Romain Rolland 

these bombs come to us frequently. We realise that even 
these explosions are doing injury to mankind. The conscience 
of man is shocked at this crime against humanity, and yet 
nothing effective can be done to stop it. And so we drift to 
disaster without a sense of direction or purpose. 

Among the many remarkable qualities of Gandhiji the 
two most outstanding were, E think, the absence of fear and 
freedom from hatred. Today fear and hatred grip the world. 
I cannot imagine a worse companionship for an individual or 
a nation than that of fear and hatred. The older generation 
was filled with them and the younger grows up under their 

Gandhiji trained and moulded the Indian people for half 
a century. We did not get rid of our main failings, but we 
learnt much from him and something of that teaching rema- 
ins. It has become a part of the Indian tradition and the 
heritage of our race. Our people quarrel with each other 
sometimes, but I think that, on the whole, they are singularly 
free from hatred. 

I had the privilege of meeting Romain Rolland on several 
occasions at Villeneuve thirty years ago. S was greatly impr- 
essed by him and, though he was so different from Gandhi, 
I sensed a certain communion of spirit between the two. 
These two men with different backgrounds and experiences 
met on a higher level and recognised each other. Perhaps in 
this correspondence we can to some extent sense this commu- 
nity of spirit of two great men. I hope that this publication 
will give some people glimpses into their minds and help to 
lighten the burden all of us carry in this present-day turbulent 
world of ours. 

New Delhi 
1st June, 1957 

Jawaharlal Nehru 


This volume, which deals with the relationship between Roma in 
Roiland and Gandhi, contains letters, extracts fiom Romam Rolland’s 
Journal and various articles. 

Some texts are reproduced m whole or in part from the volume 
entitled hde} comprising passages from the Journal (between 1915 
and 1943) which lefer to India. These two books are thus complemen- 

1 Editions Albin Michel, 1960 


In the correspondence between Gandhi and Romain Rolland, 
Gandhi’s letters were written in English and Romain Rolland’s in 
French. It has thus been my responsibility to translate only the words 
of the latter. The letters by Miss Slade were written sometimes in 
French and sometimes in English, and she has been good enough to 
translate the French passages herself. 

Romain Rolland frequently quotes texts by Gandhi and other 
English and Indian writers in his letters and articles. Every effort has 
been made to trace the original English texts from which Rolland took 
these quotations, but in a few cases I have been forced to provide 
my own retranslation from Rolland’s French. Footnotes have been 
used to point out any substantial quotations where this is so. This 
affects very few of Gandhi’s own words, but it should be noted that 
the transcript of the conversations between Gandhi and Romain Rolland 
is taken from the latter’s diary and is thus a retranslation from notes 
in French 1 ”” taken at the time. 

R. A. Francis 



Letters , Diary Extracts 


1. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (23-8-1920) 3 

2. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (19-4-1921) 3 

3. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (4-4-1922) 4 

4. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag (14-8-1922) 4 

5. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (17/20-8-1922) 5 

6. Romain Rolland to Ganesan (August 1922) 6 

7. Romain Rolland to Dilip Kumar Roy (29-11-1922) 7 

8. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag (21-12-1922) 7 

9. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (January 1923) 7 

10. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag (8-2-1923) 8 

11. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag (2-3-1923) 9 

12. Romain Rolland to Rabindranath Tagore (2-3-1923) 10 

13. Extract from Romam Rolland’s Diary (March 1923) 11 

14. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (Apnl 1923) 11 

15. Romain Rolland to W. W. Pearson (28-5-1923) 13 

16. Romain Rolland to Rabindranath Tagore (11-6-1923) 13 

17. Romain Rolland to Hari G. Govil (19-6-1923) 14 

18. Romain Rolland to Dilip Kumar Roy (2-7-1923) 15 

19. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (September 1923) 15 

20. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (October 1923) 17 

21. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (October 1923) 17 

22. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (December 1923) 18 

23. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag (21-1-1924) 18 

24. Extract from Mahadev Desai’s Diary (25-1-1924) 19 

25. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (27-1-1924) 19 

26. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (4/5-2-1924) 20 

27. Romain Rolland to Ganesan (6-2-1924) 20 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi ; Correspondence 

28. Romain Rolland and Paul Richard to Gandhi (17-2-1924) 21 

29. Romain Rolland to Mahadev Desai (24-2-1924) 22 

30. Romain Rolland to Dilip Kumar Roy (24-2-1924) 23 

31. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (1-3-1924) 25 

32. Extiact from Romain Rolland's Diary (March 1924) 26 

33. Extiact from Romain Rolland’s Diary (10-3-1924) 72 

34. Romain Rolland to Kali das Nag (16-3-1924) 27 

35. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (March 1924) 28 

36. Extract fiom Romain Rolland’s Diary (Late March 1924) 29 

37. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (22-3-1924) 29 

38. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (April 1924) 30 

39. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (April 1924) 31 

40. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (26-5-1924) 32 

41. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (1-6-1924) 32 

42. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (16-6-1924) 32 

43. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (June 1924) 33 

44. Romain Rolland to M. Rippmann, Missionary in Canara 

(India) (27-7-1924) 34 

45. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (28-7-1924) 34 

46. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (17-8-1924) 36 

47. Romain Rolland to G. F. Andrews (24-9-1924) 36 

48. Romain Rolland to C. F. Andrews (28-10-1924) 37 

49. Extract from Mahadev Desai’s Diary (23-11-1924) 39 

50. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag (18-12-1924) 39 

51. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (Decemebr 1924) 39 

52. Romain Rolland to Fernand Benoit (India) (4-1-1925) 41 

53. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (January 1925) 41 

54. Romain Rolland to Dinesh Ranjan Das (8-2-1925) 43 

55. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (18/19-2-1925) 44 

56. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (April 1925) 45 

57. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag (2-5-1925) 45 

58. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (14-9-1925) 46 

59. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (September 1925) 47 

60. Romain Rolland to Gandhi (1-10-1925) 48 

61. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag (19-10-1925) 48 

Contents xiii 

62. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (12-11-1925) 50 

63. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (13-11-1925) 50 

64. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag (26-11-1925) 51 

65. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade (17-12-1925) 52 

66 Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (December 1925) 54 

67. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (8-1-1926) 55 

68. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (23-4-1926) 56 

69. Jawaharlal Nehru to Romain Rolland (8-5-1926) 57 

70 Romain Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru (11-5-1926) 57 

71. Jawaharlal Nehru to Romam Rolland (13-5-1926) 59 

72. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (20-5-1926) 59 

73. Gandhi to Devdas Gandhi (27-5-1926) 60 

74. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (31-5-1926) 61 

75. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (21/29-6-1926) 61 

76. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (29-6-1926) 63 

77. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (7-7-1926) 65 

78. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (26-7-1926) 66 

79. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (5-9-1926) 67 

80. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (11-9-1926) 69 

81. Extract from Romam Rolland’s Diary (13-9-1926) 69 

82. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade (26-9-1926) 69 

83. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (September 1926) 74 

84. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (4-10-1926) 74 

85. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (13-10-1926) 75 

86. Madeleine Slade to Romam Rolland (28-10-1926) 75 

87. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (29-10-1926) 76 

88. Gandhi to Emil Romger (1926) 77 

89. Romain Rolland to Gandhi (14-11-1926) 78 

90. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade (14-11-1926) 79 

91. Gandhi to Madeleine Slade (6-12-1926) 80 

92. Gandhi to Madeleine Slade (11-12-1926) 81 

93 Madeleine Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru (13-3-1927) 81 

94 Madeleine Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru (17-3-1927) 82 

95. Romain Rolland to D. B. Kalelkar (17-3-1927) 83 

96. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (March 1927) 84 

xiv Rotnain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

97. Gandhi to Madeleine Slade (13-4-1927) 84 

98. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade (25-4-1927) 85 

99. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (April 1927) 4 -*86 

100. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (1-5-1927) 87 

101. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (9-7-1927) 88 

102. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade (10-12-1927) 88 

103. Madeleine Slade to Madeleine Rolland (6-1-1928) 90 

104. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade (21-1-1928) 91 

105. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (January 1928) 92 

106. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (17-2-1928) 93 

107. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (17-2-1928) 95 

108. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary (25-2-1928) 97 

109. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade (7-3-1928) 98 

110. Romain Rolland to Gandhi (7-3-1928) 99 

111. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (8-3-1928) 102 

112. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (16-3-1928) 102 

113. Gandhi to Rajagopalachari (19-3-1928) 104 

114. Gandhi to Motilal Nehru (27-3-1928) 104 

115. Gandhi to Rajagopalachari (28-3-1928) 105 

116. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (30-3-1928) 105 

117. Gandhi to Muriel Lester (30-3-1928) 106 

118. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade (31-3-1928) 106 

119. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (March 1928) 108 

120. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (March 1928) 109 

121. Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru (1-4-1928) 109 

122. Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru (5-4-1928) 109 

123. Gandhi to Dr. M. A. Ansari (7-4-1928) 110 

124. Gandhi to Muriel Lester (13-4-1928) 110 

125. Romain Rolland to Gandhi (16-4-1928) 111 

126. Madeleine Rolland to Madeleine Slade (16-4-1928) 114 

127. Gandhi to Motilal Nehru (20-4-1928) 115 

128. Gandhi to G. F. Andrews (22-4-1928) 116 

129. Gandhi to European Friends (26-4-1928) 117 

130. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (27-4-1928) 119 

131. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (April 1928) 120 



132. Extract from Romain RolIancTs Diary (10-5-1928) 120 

133. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade (14-5-1928) 121 

134. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (May 1928) 122 

135. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (7-8-1928) 123 

136. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (3-9-1928) 123 

137. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (16-9-1928) 124 

138. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (October 1928) 126 

139. Jawaharlal Nehru to Romain Rolland (22-1-1929) 126 

140. Romain Rolland’s Message on Lajpat Rai’s Death 

(January 1929) 127 

141. Romain Rolland to Gandhi (17-2-1929) 128 

142. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (18-2-1929) 131 

143. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (27-2-1929) 131 

144. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (February 1929) 132 

145. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (2-5-1929) 133 

146. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (27-10-1929) 134 

147. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (December 1929) 134 

148. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (January 1930) 134 

149. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (22-4-1930) 134 

150. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (22-5-1930) 135 

151. Romain Rolland to Dilip Kumar Roy (3-6-1930) 136 

152. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (June 1930) 136 

153. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (5-6-1930) 138 

154. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (31-8-1930) 138 

155. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (14-9-1930) 139 

156. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (September 1930) 139 

157. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (19-9-1930) 140 

158. Romain Rolland’s Message on Gandhi’s Birthday 

(1-10-1930) 141 

159. Gandhi to Madeleine Slade (3-1-1931) 142 

160. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (5-1-1931) 142 

161. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (6-1-1931) 142 

162. Gandhi to Premabehn Kantak (11-1-1931) 143 

163. Gandhi to Madeleine Slade (12-1-1931) 143 

164. Gandhi to Madeleine Slade (19-7-1931) 144 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

165. Gandhi to Romain RoIIand (15-8-1931) 144 

166. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (31-8-1931) 145 

167 Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (September 1931) 145 

168. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (6-9-1931) 145 

169. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (September 1931) 146 

170 Romain Rolland to Gandhi (10-9-1931) 146 

171. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (September 1931) 147 

172. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (11-9-1931) 148 

173. Gandhi’s Interview to “The New York Times” 

(11-9-1931) 149 

174. Gandhi’s Speech at Meeting of Students* Marseilles 

(1 1-9-1931) 149 

175. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (13-9-1931) 150 

176. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (September 1931) 150 

177. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (September 1931) 151 

178. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (29-9-1931) 153 

179. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (2-10-1931) 154 

180. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (18-10-1931) 155 

181. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (October 1931) 155 

182. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (18-10-1931) 155 

183. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (November 1931) 156 

184. Romain Rolland to N S. R. Iyangar (28-11-1931) 159 

185. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (28-11-1931) 160 

186. Madeleine Slade to Romam Rolland (29-11-1931) 160 

187. Madeleine Slade and Mahadev Desai to Romain 

Rolland (30-11-1931) 106 

188 Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (1-12-1931) 161 

189. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (4-12-1931) 161 

190. Madeleme Slade to Romain Rolland (5-12-1931) 161 

191. Romain Rolland to P. N. Natarajan (5-12-1931) 162 

192. Extract from Gandhi’s Diary (6-12-1931 to 11-12-1931) 162 

193. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (December 1931) 163 

194. Extract from Mahadev Desai’s Diary (6-12-1931) 225 

195. Extract from Mahadev Desai’s Diary (9-12-1931) 230 

196. Extract from Mahadev Desai’s Diary (10-12-1931) 232 

Contents x vii 

197. Romain Rolland to General Moris (11-12-1931) 233 

198. Extract from Gandhi’s Diary (12/13-12-1931) 233 

199. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (December 1931) 233 

200. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (14-12-1931) 239 

201. Madeleine Slade to Romam Rolland (16-12-1931) 240 

202. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (20-12-1931) 241 

203. Gandhi to Madeleine Rolland (20-12-1931) 242 

204. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

(December 1931) 243 

205. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (January 1932) 243 

206. Romain Rolland to Gandhi (2-1-1932) 245 

207. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (2-1-1932) 248 

208. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (4-1-1932) 248 

209. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (4-1-1932) 248 

210. Extract from Romam Rolland’s Diary (5-1-1932) 249 

211. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (25-1-1932) 249 

212. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (January 1932) 250 

213. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (4-2-1932) 251 

214 Gandhi to Ashram Women (13-2-1932) 257 

215. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland (17-2-1932) 258 

216. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (3-3-1932) 259 

217. Gandhi to Romam Rolland (16-9-1932) 259 

218. Extract from Gandhi’s Diary (16-9-1932) 260 

219. C. F. Andrews to Romain Rolland (26-9-1932) 260 

220. Romain Rolland to Gandhi (27-9-1932) 260 

221. Gandhi to Mirabehn (29-9-1932) 260 

222. Gandhi to Romam Rolland and Madeleine Rolland 

(30-9-1932) 261 

223. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

(September 1932) 262 

224. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (13/14-10-1932) 264 

225. Romam Rolland to Gandhi (22-10-1932) 265 

226. Extract from Romam Rolland’s Diary (1-11-1932) 266 

227. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (December 1932) 268 

228. Gandhi to Madeleine Rolland (6-1-1933) 269 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

229. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (5-2-1933) 271 

230. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (22-2-1933) 272 

231. Devdas Gandhi to Romain Rolland (10-4-1933) 272 

232. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (April 1933) 273* 

233. Romain Rolland to Gandhi (2-5-1933) 274 

234. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (May 1933) 275 

235. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (June 1933) 275 

236. Gandhi to Madeleine Rolland (25-8-1933) 276 

237. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (November 1933) 276 

238. Romain Rolland to Saumyendranath Tagore 

(14 November 1933) 279 

239. Conversation between Romain Rolland and Saumyendra- 

nath Tagore (November 1933) 281 

240. Second Conversation between Romain Rolland and 

Saumyendranath Tagore (25-11-1933 290 

241. Extract from Romain Rolland 5 s Diary (November 1933) 292 

242. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (28-11-1933) 296 

243. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (December 1933) 296 

244. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag (24-12-1933) 300 

245. Romain Rolland to Gandhi (4-4-1934) 302 

246. Romain Rolland to Gandhi (8-4-1934) 305 

247. Gandhi to Romain Rolland (3-5-1934) 308 

348. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (May 1934) 308 

249. Extract from Romain Rolland ! s Diary (July 1934) 309 

250. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (4-10-1934) 311 

251. Romain Rolland to Gandhi (8-11-1934) 312 

252. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade (8-11-1934) 314 

253. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

(November 1 934) 314 

254. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (Novembei 1934) 316 

255. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (December 1934) 317 

256. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (13-1-1935) 317 

257. Romain Rolland to Subhas Chandra Bose 

(22-2-1935) 318 

258. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (March 1935) 319 

Contents xixr 

259. Gandhi to Madeleine Rolland (28-3-1935) 320 

260. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diar y (April 1935) 321 

261. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (April 1935) 324 

262. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (April 1935) 325 

263. Madeleine Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru (13-9-1935) 327 

264. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (22-10-1935) 328 

265. Madeleine Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru (12-1-1936) 331 

266. Madeleine Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru (17-2-1936) 333 

267. Romain Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru (25-2-1936) 334 

268. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

(February 1936) 335 

269. Jawaharlal Nehru to Romain Rolland (4-3-1936) 336 

270. Devdas Gandhi to Romain Rolland (13-11-1936) 337 

271. Romain Rolland to Devdas Gandhi (2-12-1936) 338 

272. Devdas Gandhi to Romain Rolland (2-1-1937) 339 

273. Gandhi to Marie Romain Rolland (18-2-1937) 340 

274. Marie Romain Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru 

(24-3-1937) 341 

275. Jawaharlal Nehru to Romain Rolland (17-4-1937) 342 

276. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (28-7-1937) 343 

277. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (15-10-1937) 343 

278. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

(December 1937) 344 

279. Gandhi to Madeleine Rolland (30-12-1937) 345 

280. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

(February 1939) 345 

281. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (March 1939) 348 

282. Extract from £fi Le Voyage Interieur” (8-9-1940) 349 

283. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary (November 1943) 351 

284 Sarojini Naidu’s Tribute to Romain Rolland (3-1-1945) 351 

285. Gandhi’s Statement on Romain Rolland’s death 

(10-1-1945) 352 

286. Gandhi’s last Reference to Romain Rolland (13-1-1948) 352 

287. Jawaharlal Nehru to Marie Romain Rolland 

(30-9-1956) 353: 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 


Extracts from letters referring to Gandhi 9 sent by Romain 
Rolland to various foreign correspondents 

288. Romain Rolland to Henri Barbusse (France) 

(2-2-1922) 357 

289. Romain Rolland to Charles Vildrac (France) 

(27-12-1922) 358 

290. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

(28-12-1922) 358 

291. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

(25-1-1923) 359 

292. Romain Rolland to Paul Cohn (Belgium) (25-1-1923) 359 

293. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) (27-1-1923) 360 

294. Romain Rolland to Paul Colin (Belgium) (5-2-1923) 361 

295 Romain Rolland to Maurice Delamam (France) 

(7-2-1923) 361 

296 Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) (8-2-1923) 362 

297. Romain Rolland to Paul Amann (Austria) (9-2-1923) 363 

298. Romain Rolland to Paul Colin (Belgium) 

(19-2-1923) 364 

299. Romain Rolland to Paul Colin (Belgium) (20-2-1923) 365 

300. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

(20-2-1923) 365 

301. Romain Rolland to Auguste Forel (Switzerland) 

(21-2-1923) 365 

302 Romain Rolland to Andre Suar^s (France) (27-2-1923) 366 

303. Romain Rolland to Stefan Zweig (Austria) (28-2-1923) 367 

304. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) (1-3-1923) 367 

305. Romain Rolland to Paul Colin (Belgium) (10-3-1923) 368 

306. Romam Rolland to Jacques Mesnil (France) (12-3-1923) 369 

307. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) (12-3-1923) 370 

308. Romain Rolland to Albert Gregoire (France) 

(14-3-1923) 37i 

309. Romain Rolland to Paul Colin (Belgium) (15-3-1923) 371 



310. Romain Rolland to Anna-Maria Curtins (Germany) 

(19-3-1923) 371 

311. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

(8-5-1923) 372' 

312. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

(25-5-1923) 372 

313. Romain Rolland to Luc Durtain (France) (1-6-1923) 373 

314. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) (7-6-1923) 374 

315. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) (8-6-1923) 375 

316. Romain Rolland to Stefan Zweig (Austria) (8-6-1923) 376 

317. Romain Rolland to Waldo Frank (U.S.A.) (17-6-1923) 376 

318. Romain Rolland to Paul Cohn (Belgium) (17-6-1923) 376 

319. Romain Rolland to Andre Karpeles (France) (18-6-1923) 377 

320. Romain Rolland to Alberto De Angelis (Italy) (7-7-1923) 377 

321. Romain Rolland to the Review “Renovacion” (Argentine) 

(18-7-1923) 378 

322. Romain Rolland to Maurice Delamain (France) 

(20-7-1923) 378 

323. Romain Rolland to Roger Avermaete (Belgium) 

(22-7-1923) 379 

324. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

(23-8-1923) 380 

325. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) (13-9-1923) 380 

326. Romain Rolland to Pierre Ceresole (Switzerland) 

(10-10-1923) 381 

327. Romain Rolland to Marcel Benedek (Hungary) 

(27-10-1923) 381 

328. Romain Rolland to Paul Amann (Austria) (30-10-1923) 382 

329. Romain Rolland to Maurice Delamain (France) 

(31-10-1923) 382 

330. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) (3-11-1923) 384 

331. Romain Rolland to Mina Vallette (Switzerland) 

(10-11-1923) 384 

332. Romain Rolland to Maurice Delamain (France) 


385 - 



Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

333. Romain Rolland to Louise Levi (Switzerland) 

(10*1-1924) 386 

334. Romain Rolland to Jacques Benoist-Mechin (France) 

(22-1-1924) 386 

335. Romain Rolland to Jenny Guyot (France) (18-3-1924) 387 

336. Romain Rolland to Stefan Zweig (Austria) (22-3-1924) 388 

337. Romain Rolland to Rende Thiesson (France) 

(26-3-1924) 389 

338. Romain Rolland to H. Key-Rasmussen (Sweden) 

(7-4-1924) 389 

339. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) (16-7-1924) 390 

340. Romain Rolland to Carlos Amenco Amaya, of the 

Review “Renovacion 59 (Argentine) (24-7-1924) 391 

341. Romain Rolland to Roger Avermaete (Belgium) 

(28-7-1924) 391 

342. Romain Rolland to Roger Avermaete (Belgium) 

(9-8-1924) 392 

3 43. Romain Rolland to Charles Bernard (Switzerland) 

(4-11-1924) 393 

344. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) (20-12-1924) 393 

345. Romain Rolland to Gaston V. Rosselet 

(Switzerland) (February 1925) 394 

346. Romain Rolland to Nobuyeshi Ichitani (Japan) (22-2-1925) 397 

347. Romain Rolland to Maurice Delamain (France) 

(26-10-1925) 397 

348. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) (10-12-1925) 398 

349. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) (17-12-1925) 401 

350. Romain Rolland to Henri Hisquin (France) (14-1-1926) 401 

351. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) (5-7-1926) 402 

352. Romain Rolland to Paul Birukoff (Switzerland) , 

(2-10-1926) 403 

353. Romain Rolland to Charles Baudouin (Switzerland) 

(1-1-1927) 403 

354. Romain Rolland to Marcel Lob (France) (17-4-1927) 403 

355. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) (28-4-1927) 404 


mm m 

xx m 

356. Romain Rolland to Tatiana Soukhotin-Tolstoy (Italy) 

(24-5-1927) 405 

357. Romain Rolland to Paul Birukoff (Switzerland) 

(2-6-1927) 405 

358. Romain Rolland to Maurice Wullens (France) 

(14-6-1927) 406 

359. Romain Rolland to Ren^e Thiesson (France) 

(2-10-1927) 406 

360. Romain Rolland to Marianne Rauze (France) 

(21-11-1927) 408 

361. Romain Rolland to Paul Birukoff (Switzerland) 

(21-12-1927) 408 

362. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) (5-3-1928) 409 

363. Romain Rolland to Ferenc Hugai (Hungary) (8-3-1928) 410 

364. Romain Rolland to George Leonard (Austria) 

(8-3-1928) 410 

365. Romain Rolland to Alphonse De Chateaubriant 

(France) (17-3-1928) 411 

366. Romain Rolland to Marcel Martinet (France) 

(12-4-1928) 411 

367. Romain Rolland to Paul Geheeb (Switzerland) 

(7-5-1928) 413 

368. Romain Rolland to B. De Ligt (Netherlands) 

(4-7-1928) 413 

369. Romain Rolland to James H. Powers (U.S.A.) 

(11-8-1928) 414 

370. Romain Rolland to Toshihiko Katayama (Japan) 

(15-8-1928) 415 

371. Romain Rolland to Beatrice Aram (Netherlands) 

(22-9-1928) 416 

372. Romain Rolland to Jeanne Challaye (France) 

(25-11-1928) 416 

373. Romain Rolland to Claude Salives (Switzerland) 

(Christmas 1928) 417 

374. Romain Rolland to Pastor Henri Roser (2-11-1929) 418 

xx iv Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

375- Romain Rolland to Jacques Mesnil (France) 

(November 1929) 419 

376. Romain Rolland to Andre Suares (France) 

(4-3-1930) 419 

377. Romain Rolland to Eugen Relgis (Rumania) 

(29-4-1930) 420 

378. Romain Rolland to Charles-Marie Gamier (France) 

(11-5-1930) 421 

379. Romain Rolland to Jacques Mesnil (France) 

(17-9-1930) 422 

380. Romain Rolland to Reginald Reynolds (Great Britain) 

(19-9-1930) 422 

381. Romain Rolland to Albert Einstein (Germany) 

(12-10-1930) 425 

382. Romain Rolland to Blanche Metayer (France) 

(21-10-1930) 425 

383. Romain Rolland to E. Liechti (Switzerland) 

(14-11-1930) 426 

384. Romain Rolland to Pierre Ceresole (Switzerland) 

(30-11-1930) 427 

385. Romain Rolland to Runham Brown (Great Britain) 

(20-2-1931) 428 

386. Romain Rolland to Edmond Privat (Switzerland) 

(6-3-1931) 428 

387. Romain Rolland to Edmond Privat (Switzerland) 

(7-3-1931) 429 

388. Romain Rolland to Camille Roug4 (France) (12-3-1931) 430 

389. Romain Rolland to Charles Baudouin (Switzerland) 

(14-3-1931) 430 

390. Romain Rolland to Edmond Privat 

(Switzerland) (5-5-1931) 431 

391. Romain Rolland to Charles Bernard (Switzerland) 

(26-5-1931) 435 

392. Romain Rolland to Abbd Alfred Martin (Belgium) 

(18-7-1931) 435 

Contents xxv 

393. Romain Rolland to Lucien Price (U.S.A.) 

(12-8-1931 ) 436 

394. Romain Rolland to Erich Schramm (Germany) 

(22-9-1931) 436 

395. Romain Rolland to Rene Arcos (France) 

(23-9-1931) 437 

396. Romain Rolland to Lucien Roth (France) 

(25-9-1931) 438 

397. Romain Rolland to Louis Guilloux (France) 

(10-10-1931) 439 

398. Romain Rolland to Mme. Paul Birukoff (Switzerland) 

(10-10-1931) 439 

399. Romain Rolland to Mme. Paul Birukoff (Switzeiland) 

(21-10-1931) 440 

400. Romain Rolland to Charles Baudouin (Switzerland) 

(29-10-1931) 440 

401. Romain Rolland to Berta Schleicher (Germany) 

(11-11-1931) 441 

402. Romain Rolland to Charles Baudouin 

(Switzerland) (2-12-1931) 442 

403. Romain Rolland to Lucien Roth (France) (4-12-1931) 442 

404. Romain Rolland to Frans Masereel (France) 

(5-12-1931) 443 

405. Romain Rolland to Claire G4niaux (France) 

(8-12-1931) 443 

406. Romain Rolland to Berta Schleicher (Germany) 

(9-12-1931) 444 

407. Romain Rolland to Pastor William Gen ton 

(Switzerland) (10-12-1931) 444 

408. Romain Rolland to Erich Schramm (Germany) 

(14-12-1931) 446 

409. Romain Rolland to R4 Meynard (France) 

(16- 12-1931) 447 

410. Romain Rolland to Henri Hisquin (France) 

(16-12-1931) 448 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

411. Romain Rolland to Pastor Paul Leenhardt (France) 

(20-12-1931) 449 

412. Romain Rolland to Georges Pioch (France) 

(23-12-1931) 450 

413. Romain Rolland to Lucien Roth (France) 

(24-12-1931) 451 

414. Romain Rolland to Lucien Price (U.S.A.) 

(25-12-1931) 454 

415. Romain Rolland to Gabriel Belot (France) 

(25-12-1931) 458 

416. Romain Rolland to Stefan Zweig (Austria) (30-12-1931) 458 

417. Romain Rolland to Esther Marchand (France) 

(30-12-1931) 461 

418. Romain Rolland to Clara Beerli (Switzerland) 

(31-12-1931) 464 

419. Romain Rolland to “La Revolution Prole tarienne” 

(January 1932) 465 

420. Romain Rolland to Marcel Lob (France) (1-1-1932) 466 

421. Romain Rolland to Frans Masereel (France) 

(4-1-1932) 467 

422- Romarn Rolland to Rene Arcos (France) (4-1-1932) 468 

423. Romain Rolland to Jean Richard Bloch (France) 

(4-1-1932) 470 

424. Romain Rolland to Marianne Rauze (France) 

(9-1-1932) 472 

425. Romain Rolland to Re Meynard (France) 

(17-1-1932) 472 

426. Romain Rolland to Ferenc Hugai (Hungary) 

(20-1-1932) 473 

427. Romain Rolland to Waldo Frank (U.S.A.) 

(26-1-1932) 473 

428. Romain Rolland to Edouard Schneider (France) 

(27-1-1932) 474 

429. Romain Rolland to Esther Marchand (France) 

(29-1-1932) 475 



430. Romaln Rolland to Edmond Frivat (Switzerland) 

(29-1-1932) 475 

431. Romain Rolland to Erich Schramm (Germany) 

(31-14932) 476 

432. Romain Rolland to Henry Prunieres (France) 

(2-2-1932) 477 

433. Romain Rolland to George Bouche — Villen euve 

(France) (9-2-1932) 478 

434. Romain Rolland to Esther Marchand (France) 

(9-3-1932) 480 

435. Romain Rolland to Re Meynard (France) 

(18-3-1932) 481 

436. Romain Rolland to Lucien Roth (France) (22-3-1932) 481 

437. Romain Rolland to Marcel Dichamp (France) 

(17-5-1932) 483 

438. Romain Rolland to Erich Schramm (Germany) 

(2-7-1932) 484 

439. Romain Rolland to Charles Baudouin (Switzerland) 

(28-9-1932) 484 

440. Romain Rolland to Hedwige Petzold (Austria) 

(30-9-1932) 485 

441. Romain Rolland to Reginald Reynolds (Great Britain) 

(9-10-1932) 485 

442. Romam Rolland to Professor P. Kiruchine 

(27-12-1932) 486 

443. Romain Rolland to Emile Bauchet (France) 

(21-3-1933) 488 

444. Romain Rolland to Reginald Reynolds (Great Britain) 

(12-7-1933) 490 

445. Romain Rolland to Leon Herbos (Belgium) 

(22-7-1933) 493 

446. Romain Rolland to Rev. John Haynes Holmes (U.S.A.) 

(1-11-1933) 493 

447. Romain Rolland to Eugene Lagot (France) (4-11-1933) 494 

448. Romain Rolland to Marcel Caster (France) (21-3-1934) 495 

Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 


449. Romain Rolland to Lucien Roth (France) 

(5-4-1934) 495 

450. Romain Rolland to G. Viatkine (U.S.S.R.) 

(23-5-1934) 496 

451. Romain Rolland to Fou Nou-En (China) (30-6-1934) 498 

452. Romain Rolland to Ch. Ulrich, World Committee 

Against War (France) (21-11-1935) 499 

453. Romain Rolland to Lucien Roth (France) (31-12-1936) 500 

454. Romam^Rolland to Victor Jourdain (France) 

(1-3-1939) 501 


Prefaces and Articles 

455. Introduction to Young India (July 1924) 505 

456. Romain Rolland’s Preface to the French Edition of 

Lajpat Rai’s Unhappy India (November 1929) 519 

457. Romain Rolland’s Preface to Gandhi’s Autobiography 

(March 1931) 521 

458. Letter from India — I 

England’s Declaration of War on India (15 February 1932) 547 

459. Letter from India — II 

The King is in check! (15 March 1932) 559 

460. Letter from India — III 

Revolution, The Invisible Leader (15 May 1932) 573 

461. The Christ of India (6 October 1932) 586 

About People Referred to in the Volume 589 

Index 595 


Letters , Diary Extracts 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


1. Extract from Romain RoUand’s Diary 

23 August 1920 (Paris) .-A young Bengali Hindu, D. K. 
Roy, comes to see me. . . . He tells us about Gandhi 
who has an extraordinary influence over the Hindus. He 
is a Madras [w] lawyer who gave up all his property 7 or 8 
years ago to devote himself entirely to the salvation of his 
people on whom he has a magnetic effect. He preaches 
passive resistance to them and turns them away from 
violence. The great revolt of last year broke out after the 
British removed him from the scene. He is at present in 
Delhi. He seems to have been influenced by Tolstoy’s 

2. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

19 April 1921 (Paris, visit of Rabindranath Tagore) .- 
He still expresses his firm hope that the Indian people 
will achieve the ideal pacifism which the rest of the world 
pursues in vain. For it is the very essence of the race never 
to oppose violence by violence; and its non-resistance, the 
age-old force against which all invasions have shattered 
themselves, has recently been erected into a principle of 
conscious action by Gandhi. To which I reply that non- 
resistance is indeed effective and quite easy when applied 
by an immense people always sure of the last word, thanks 
to its prodigious vitality. But it raises quite different and 
dangerous problems for the peoples of the West who are 
perpetually threatened in their very existence. There 
are two sorts of pacifism: pacifism by renunciation, out of 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

impoverished vitality, and pacifism by calm trust in one’s 
strength, out of superabundance of vitality. 

3. Extract from Remain Holland’s Diary 

4 April 1922 (Paris, visit of Kalidas Nag) .-He tells us 
of the intellectual differences between Tagore and Gandhi, 
both of whom he admires (Gandhi was arrested a fortnight 
ago by the British Government). Tagore, he says, occupies 
in India a position identical to mine in the debate with 
Barbusse. He supports the principle of absolute individual 
liberty; and Gandhi himself, the C£ non-resister”, infringes it 
by submitting the individual to mass tactics. 

4. Remain Holland to Kalidas Nag 

Villeneuve (' Vaud ) Villa Olga 
Monday , 14 August 1922 

.... Ganesan, the Madras publisher, has asked me to 
write a short introduction to a volume of Gandhi’s collected 
articles called Toung India. I should be glad to do it, as I 
admire Gandhi; the articles my sister reads to me are noble 
and pure. But I wouldn’t want the fact of putting my name 
at the head of a book by Gandhi to jeopardize my chance 
of coming to India as I plan to do in the not too distant 
future. Do you think the British Government would be 
likely to refuse me access to India for this reason alone? If 
so, I should turn down the request (with regret), as I can 
be of more use if I go to Santiniketan. I’d be grateful if 
you’d think a little about this and answer as soon as possible, 
as Ganesan is waiting for my decision. . . . 

Letters, Diary Extracts 

5 - 

5. Extract from Romain Roll and’ s Diary 

17-20 August 1922 (Villeneuve, visit of Dilip Kumar Roy).— 
Roy, to whom X speak of Gandhi — (Gandhi’s publisher, 
Ganesan of Madras, has recently sent me the proofs of a 
collection of articles by Gandhi entitled Young India , asking 
me to write an introduction) — , agrees that (as I remarked) 
Gandhi has a practical realism which is almost disconcerting 
in the context of his idealism. By way of example, he tells 
me in confidence that the two Indian Muslim leaders, the 
Ali brothers, with whom Gandhi has formed an alliance, are 
of very dubious moral character, and Gandhi must be aware 
of the fact; yet the saint takes them as allies and speaks of 
them with the most affectionate esteem, because he considers 
them indispensable to the great work of Indian unification. 
I see in Gandhi something quite different from an inter- 
nationalist of my type : he is a nationalist, but of the greatest, 
the loftiest kind, a kind which should be a model for all 
the petty, base, or even criminal nationalisms of Europe. 
An idealistic nationalist who wants his nation to be the 
greatest in spirit — or nothing. And while dominating the 
world by her moral grandeur, she must have fraternal rela- 
tions with the rest of the world — but as an elder brother. 
It is noteworthy that Gandhi declares he would not give his 
daughter in marriage to a Muslim for anything in the 
world, even to the one he most highly esteemed. Nor does 
he admit the least weakening in the Hindu religion. He 
goes so far as to say that he would not kill a cow to save a 
man. (This is not his respect for all animal life; it is the spe- 
cial cult of the cow.) He seems to me to correspond more 
closely to a great Catholic saint (like Francis of Assisi) 
than to a Tolstoy or a man of my type. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

6. Romain Rolland to Ganesan 

August 1922 

.... I profoundly admire Mahatma Gandhi, but I do 
not believe 1 can write the introduction which you ask of 
me. Truth to tell, with all due respect to the great man, my 
ideas differ somewhat from his on certain points. As far as 
I can gather from the extracts of his work which you send 
me, he is less an internationalist (as I am) than an idealistic 
nationalist. I see in him the highest and purest type of 
spiritualized nationalism, a type which is unique today and 
which could well be offered as a model to the egoistic and 
materialized nationalisms of present-day Europe. I intend 
to do this some day in an article in a European review, 
but I could not do it in an introduction to a book, for I should 
not be as free there to discuss his work and to show the 
points where I differ from him. May I add that there is 
nothing more contrary to my way of working than giving 
hasty opinions on such a considerable system of thought 
and action. I cannot be content with a superficial reading; 
I want to think about it at leisure. So forgive me if I decline 
the honour of writing a preface to M. G.’s volume; it is pre- 
cisely because I have such a high regard for him that I do 
not want to talk about him other than after mature reflection 
and in complete liberty. (N.B. The proofs you sent me are 
without the introductory and closing pages; in any case I 
would never speak about a book before receiving and reading 
the whole text.) . . . 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


7. Romain Rolland to Dilip Kumar Roy 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga , Switzerland 

29 November 1922 

.... Should you be able to find a pamphlet or an 
article which is interesting and reliable on Gandhi’s life, do 
please send it to me. (The life and the character of Gandhi I 
want more than his gospel which I know, thanks to the 
publication of Ganesan: Young India . ) . . . 

8. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag 

Thursday, 21 December 1922 

.... My sister and I are reading — or rather have 
just finished — the 700 or 800 pages Gandhi has published. 
Some of the things he says are immortal, others are highly 
perishable and threaten the rest of the system: above all 
this mediaeval mistrust of modern science, which seems to 
him fundamentally diabolical, as it did to Tolstoy. The 
scientists, maybe. But as for science itself, Tolstoy and Gandhi 
don’t see that it’s the living spirit of God. . . . 

9. Extract from Romain Rolland* s Diary 

January 1923.-1 had told Nag of my impressions on 
reading Gandhi’s works and of my regrets at the mediaeval 
sides I found to this great apostle of purified nationalism. 
Nag sends us a copy of a letter written to him by Tagore 
in May 1922: it harmonizes with my thought. 


Romara Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

“During my journey back to India, I thought that 
Mahatma Gandhi evoked in a profound and extended 
way, in the souls of our people, the idea to which men 
like Romain Rolland have devoted themselves. I had 
also decided to co-operate with this movement by my 
writings and action. But back in India, I scented an 
atmosphere which overwhelmed me. The first sickness 
which appeared to me was tyranny over the minds of 
the people. You know that the spirit of our people 
tends naturally to inertia and traditionalism; it now has 
moral despotism imposed on it in addition; very few 
have the courage to express opinions contrary to cur- 
rent views (which means those of Gandhi) ; in other 
words, I found that the political current was hostile to 
liberty. ... I therefore declared that I was ready to 
obey the truth, not just Gandhi; — and these words did 
not please.” 1 

10. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag 

Thursday, 8 February 1923 

i . . . I must admit, Nag my friend, that I feel a little 
ashamed to think of you reading my pages on Gandhi. I’m 
so well aware of how impossible it is for a European to 
treat such a broad subject without going wrong! Even if I 
were to read everything there was to be read, I’d still lack 
the atmosphere created by India’s religion, her education 
and her country. Forgive me in advance for the mistakes I 
shall make! At least there’s one good thing, that you’ll 
be able to read my article in two numbers of the review 
Europe (15 March and 15 April. — I’ll have them sent to 
you), and if you’d like to point out the necessary changes, 
I can improve my work for the volume of Gandhi’s tran- 

1 Retranslated. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


slated writings to which it is later to form the introduction. 
(I even hope to bring it out again, a little later on, as a small 
volume in my collection of “Heroic Lives”, like the Beethoven 
and the Tolstoy.) 

There’s no one more worthy of a place in this heroes’ 
gallery. I know no hero more pure, more straightforward 
or more truthful. You can be proud to possess that “great 
soul”; Europe has none approaching him — not by a long 
way! Despite reservations which one might make about 
some of his notions and their dangerous deformations in the 
minds of his disciples, I admire and venerate Gandhi. 

But I expect to meet with a complete lack of under- 
standing from my (so-called!) colleagues in Paris when they 
read my essay. Already Jean Bernier of Clarte , who must 
have got wind somehow of what I’m going to publish, has 
made a scornfully ironic reference in an article in the Cahiers 
Idealistes to my admiration for Gandhi. As far as he’s 
concerned, nothing to do with India is of any interest to 
Europe. (And he’s an “internationalist”.) 

.... Gandhi says he’s a “ Sanatani ” Hindu; what does 
the word mean? . . . 

11. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag 

Friday evening , 2 March 1923 

.... I have finished my Gandhi, in which I pay tribute 
to your two great river-like souls, overflowing with the divine 
spirit, Tagore and Gandhi. My essay is dedicated: 

To the land of glory and servitude , 

Of transitory empires and eternal thoughts. 

To the people that defies Time, 

To India resurrected. 

For ike anniversary of the condemnation of its Messiah. 

18 March 1922 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

12. Romain Rolland to Rabindranath Tagore 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
Friday, 2 March 1923 

.... I have just finished a fairly long essay on Mahatma 
Gandhi, based on the Young India volume of articles. I shall 
bring it out in the review Europe, as well as several other 
German and Russian reviews. Without sharing all Gandhi’s 
ideas, which seem to me a little too mediaeval (particularly 
in his disciples, such as Professor Kalelkar, whose Gospel of 
Swadeshi would seem to enclose India in the walls of a monas- 
tery), I have conceived an infinite love and veneration for 
Gandhi’s person, for his great heart burning with love. In 
one chapter of my essay I’ve taken the liberty, starting from 
your admirable published articles, of recalling the stance you 
took against Gandhi and the noble debate of ideas between 
you. The highest human ideals are present there ; it could be 
compared to an argument between St. Paul and Plato. But 
when carried into an Indian context, the horizons are broad- 
ened. They embrace the whole earth, and all humanity 
shares in this august “Dispute” (in the serene sense given to 
the word by the famous Raphael fresco in the Vatican 
Stanze). In my conclusion I show you united in the aware- 
ness of the beauty — and even the fruitful necessity — of self- 
sacrifice by love. . . . 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


13. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

March 192 3. -I am spending two months (January and 
February) writing a long essay on Mahatma Gandhi which 
will appear first in the form of two articles in the review 
Europe, then serve as an introduction to the French and 
German editions of Gandhi’s works. We have devoted all our 
evenings to it for several months, my sister reading to me 
the large volume Young India, a collection of articles by 
Gandhi published in Madras, and Indian Gandhist writings. 
Our friend Kalidas Nag is helping us a little with his ex- 

14. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

April 1923 (London) -Visited by Andrews, the friend of 
Tagore and Gandhi, whose testimony was so useful to me in 
my study on Gandhi. He has lived in India for twenty 
years. In 1903-1904 he was sent by India to the Transvaal 
in support of Gandhi, who at the time was in prison; 
he shared his life and his ordeals, and by his wisdom and 
skill contributed a great deal to the happy reconciliation in 
1914 between Gandhi and the Government of the Union 
of South Africa. . . . He is the link between Tagore and 
Gandhi and he teaches at Santiniketan. 

.... Gandhi, he says, is small, insignificant-looking, 
•except when he begins to speak, and of unruffled patience. 
There is nothing severe in his manners; he laughs like a child 
.and adores children. . . . His asceticism is extreme. Al- 
though it is visible at first glance that Andrews does not quail 
at privations and physical ordeals, he smilingly admits that 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

when he was Gandhi’s companion in Africa, life was hard. 
Gandhi’s principle is that life is a preparation for suffering, 
martyrdom and death, and the results he has obtained in 
Bengal are surprising. At present he is in prison, and happy; 
he asks that no one should come to see him: he purifies 
himself, prays, and believes that in so doing he is acting 
in the best way possible for the Indian cause. Indeed 
Andrews does not doubt that the party is gaining a great 
deal from his imprisonment. For one thing, it maintains 
the fervour of India, which sees Gandhi as Sri Krishna (in 
the legend, Krishna too was imprisoned, and left his jail by 
a miracle). Above all, the delay imposed on the Indian 
movement by the condemnation of Gandhi has been very 
useful to ward off the danger of violence. At heart most of 
Gandhi’s partisans — notably the Ali brothers — are above all 
politicians. His best disciple, according to Andrews, is per- 
haps his son aged twenty-four (he has four sons). Andrews 
also names the publisher Ganesan as a fervent apostle. Mrs. 
Gandhi is very good, very simple and brave. She has never 
hesitated to share her husband’s ordeals. 

Andrews was the only witness at the discussion between 
Tagore and Gandhi, shortly after Tagore’s return to India. 
He describes them as two types of two opposing Indian races; 
Gandhi, from western India, is of an unimaginative and 
very practical race; Tagore is quite the opposite. The first 
subject of discussion was idols; Gandhi defended them, be- 
lieving the masses incapable of raising themselves imme- 
diately to abstract ideas. Tagore cannot bear to see the 
people eternally treated as a child. Gandhi quoted the great 
things achieved in Europe by the flag as an idol; Tagore 
found it easy to object, but Gandhi held his ground, con- 
trasting European flags bearing eagles, etc., with his own, 
on which he has put a spinning wheel. The second point oT 
discussion was nationalism, which Gandhi defended. He 
said that one must go through nationalism to reach inter- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


nationalism, — in the same way that one must go through 
war to reach peace. (A terrifying argument!) This is why 
he has so often worked to recruit for the English armies. 
Andrews wrote him letter after letter to dissuade him, but 
Gandhi never gave in. 

Andrews approves of my comparison of Gandhi with 
St. Paul and Tagore with Plato. He says smilingly that 
Gandhi is very much St. Paul. 

15. Romain Rolland to W. W. Pearson 

28 May 1923 

.... I know something about you from your little book, 
The Dawn of a Mew Age i and your name, like that of Mr. 
Andrews, is linked for me with those of Tagore and Gan- 
dhi. I firmly wish that we may one day all come together 
in Santiniketan. 

Mr. Andrews has given us hope that he may visit us 
in Switzerland this year. If you are passing that way, my 
sister and I would be happy to see you in ViUeneuve as well. 

.... I think it was Mr. Andrews who sent us Doke’s 
volume on Gandhi and the album in honour of the passive 
resistance movement in South Africa. We are most grateful 
to him; they will be very useful to me. . . . 

16. Romain Rolland to Rabindranath Tagore 

ViUeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
Monday , 11 June 1923 

.... I hope you’ve received the three numbers of the. 
review Europe which I sent you, in which you can read 
my study on Mahatma Gandhi. I hope there’s nothing to 


Romaln Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

displease you in the pages I devoted to you. As to the mistakes 
in my study, they were inevitable for a European who is 
still a novice in the knowledge of India and her immense 
soul. I 5 ve done what I can, and if I've not always understood 
exactly, and I'm sure I haven't, I hope I ? ve at least sensed 
something, for it was done with love . . . . 

17. Romain Holland to Hari G. Govil 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) , Switzerland 
Villa Olga 
Tuesday , 19 June 1923 

.... The publisher, F. Rieder, has sent me your letter 
of 18 May, after a fortnight's delay. Thank you for what 
you write about my essay on Mahatma Gandhi. Unfortu- 
nately I cannot authorize you to translate it and publish it 
in* America, as I have already given this authorization to Miss 
C. D. Groth, the Paris correspondent of several large American 
newspapers and magazines; she has finished the translation 
and is at present negotiating with some New York publishers 
to bring it out. I do not know whether she has settled any- 
thing yet; in any case this is her address, in case you want 
to try to arrange anything with her: 

Miss C. JD. Groth , 3 Rue Casimir-Pe rier y Paris VI . 

I should be happy to keep in contact in future with 
yourself and your review, for like you I have much love 
and a profound admiration for the great Indian thinkers, 
particularly Gandhi and Tagore, whose friend I am proud to 
be. . . . 

JLetters, Diary Extracts 


18. Remain Rolland to Dilip Kumar Roy 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
2 July 1923 

.... Thank you for your two letters; as to the book 
on Gandhi, it’ll arrive too late, my friend! It’s six months 
now since I finished reading pretty well all the works by and 
about Gandhi published by Ganesan and Natesan, and it’s 
three (months) since I published my essay on Gandhi in 
the Parisian review Europe (nos. of 15 March, 15 April and 
15 May). I sent copies one or two months ago to Tagore 
and to Ganesan, who is to publish my essay in India. Since 
then I’ve collected the three Europe articles into a brochure 
which is to be published in book form in French, Russian 
and German (I’ll send it to you). I’ve done more; I’ve had 
a selection of the Gandhi articles published by Ganesan 
translated into French and German, and they’re going to 
be brought out in Paris and Germany. You see I haven’t 
been wasting my time. Did you think a European would 
have it in him to wait a year for the despatch of a book 
(like the one you promised me)? My dear D. K. Roy, that 
one little fact is enough in itself to explain why the Europeans 
have conquered Asia. We live at a faster tempo than you. 
Still, no doubt you get your own back by living longer. . . . 

19. Extract from Romain Holland 9 s Diary 

September 1923 (Villeneuve, visit of W. W. Pearson).— We 
talk of little else but Gandhi and Tagore. . . . Pearson 
relates Gandhi’s first visit to Santiniketan. On the evening of 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

his arrival, everything was topsyturvy. Tagore was not there. 
Pearson and the other teachers made themselves available 
to Gandhi to show him the courses, but Gandhi first 
wanted to find out about the hygiene and the material 
conditions. He visited the whole establishment and came 
out of the kitchens in a rage, saying: “The cooks are dirty. 
Send them away!” And they had to be sent away then and 
there. Afterwards, since the service was disorganized, he 
seGthe pupils to the housework and the cooking (and, of 
course, the masters with them). And the strange thing is 
that from the start everyone obeyed him. We were no 
longer the masters, says Pearson. All the pupils enthusiasti- 
cally obeyed all of Gandhi’s orders. I ask: “What sort of 
voice has he?” Pearson replies: “He has no voice. He 
speaks no louder in public than we are speaking here (we 
are on two sides of a table).” “Then no one hears him?” 
“No one hears him. Yet the whole crowd hangs on his lips 
and follows him blindly. He has a magnetic power.” As 
to making him change his mind, not a hope; no amount of 
discussion could change a thing. In the Transvaal, Gokhale, 
whom he venerated, and who was on his death-bed, likely 
to pass on at any moment, was sending him telegrams every 
day pleading with him to sign a pact which Gandhi did 
not want to sign. Gandhi knew that his refusal might hasten 
Gokhale’s death, but nothing changed him. When affairs 
had finally been arranged with General Smuts, Gandhi 
should have hurried back to his wife, of whose grievous state 
of health he had learned by telegram. But not at all. “I 
shall not go back before signing the treaty, in the early 
hours of the morning.” This Smuts consented to do, and 
only then did Gandhi leave. He and his wife look very frail, 
each as weak in health as the other; it is a marvel that they 
have held out. . . . 

.... My Gandhi has turned out to be a stone thrown into 
the duckpond. It appears (a thing I would never have suspec- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


ted) that I am the first person in France to publish a docu- 
mented study on modern India. The Indianists are seething. 
How dare I speak of the East without being in the inner circle 
of orientalists? . . . 

.... Pearson has been in India since 1907. I have 
noted elsewhere how he was arrested during the war and 
taken back to London. When he returned to India, about 
1916, he was struck by the change. India had awakened. 
Indians dared to look Englishmen in the face and be rude 
to them, and although he had to suffer from this at first, 
he was delighted. In the countryside, Gandhi’s name was 
sacred everywhere, and his orders religiously carried out. 

20. Estract from Remain RoUand’s Diary 

October 1923 - Birukoff, in the Tolstoy Archives in Moscow, 
has found new letters to Tolstoy from orientals, including — 
which interest me — the brief correspondence between 
Tolstoy and Gandhi in 1910. Unfortunately Gandhi’s 
first letter, which must have been the most important, is 
lost; Tolstoy himself writes that he cannot find it; there is 
only one letter by Gandhi against three by Tolstoy. It is 
typed on paper with the letterhead: M. K. Gandhi , Attorney, 
with the address and the number. I am surprised that Gan- 
dhi should have kept his title of attorney as late as 1910, 
but it proves his practicality; no doubt he used it to defend 
the cause of his compatriots. 

21. Extract from Romain Roll and’ s Diary 

October 7PJ?i?.-Visited by Miss Madeleine Slade, daughter of 
an English admiral, who seems to have broken away from her 
family and social circle to devote herself to art, or rather to 
the interests of artists (for she herself seems to have had little 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

artistic instruction) : she has organized concerts by Lamond 
and Weingartner in London and, a strange thing among 
impresarios, managed to get herself into debt while making 
a profit for her artists. 

22. Extract from Remain Rolland’s Diary 

December 1923.- My essay on Gandhi appears in India, 
in English (in Gandhi’s review, Young India), Gujarati and 
Hindi. The Century Magazine is publishing it in America. 

23. Romain Rollaad to Kalidas Nag 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
Monday , 21 January 1924 

.... Has Ganesan written to you? He wanted me to 
authorize him to publish some works, but I told him I’d 
given you the exclusive authorization for India. I know 
he was going to publish an English edition of my Mahatma 
Gandhi ; I warned him clearly that I couldn’t give him rights 
for this book for anywhere but India: he isn’t allowed to 
export it, as the Century Magazine of New York has acquired 
the English-language publishing rights for all co un tries 
except India. 

.... Ganesan writes that my Gandhi was also published 
in Hindi and Gujarati. He’d please me if he sent me copies 
of these Indian editions as curiosities. . . . 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


24. Extract from Mahadev Desai’s Diary 

25 January 1924.-1 asked him [Gandhi] about Non-violent 
Coercion. 1 “Yes, I read two of its chapter's preceding the last. 
Its author has read a lot and collected a large mass of mate- 
rial, but his analysis cannot stand comparison with that by 
Romain Rolland. . . . Romain Roll and 2 has shown great 
insight in laying bare the essence of the difference between 
Tilak’s philosophy and mine. Romain Rolland at this point 
is not only a poet; he is a seer with a vision of the truth.” 

25. Extract from Romain Rolland 9 s Diary 

27 January 1924 (Villeneuve) .-Visited by Paul Richard 
and his son. Paul Richard is the Frenchman who spent ten 
years or so in India and Japan, including two in a Hima- 
layan retreat, and has contacts with Tagore and Gandhi. 

.... Richard knows Gandhi well and has stayed in his 
Ashram. He had a little debate with him in the period 
immediately preceding his arrest. He did not understand 
Gandhi’s attitude after the events of Chauri Chaura, when 
he stopped the movement he had initiated. (He furthermore 
says that Gandhi knew about the disturbances in Chauri 
Chaura before writing his letter to the Viceroy and de- 
claring his war of non-co-operation, but a letter from his son, 
shocked by the sight of the massacred people, and the inter- 
vention of a disciple made him decide to revoke the orders 

1 By Clarence Marsh Case 

2 In his Mahatma Gandhi 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

he had given.) In a conversation with Gandhi about non- 
violence Richard, who, though he accepts it for his own 
use, does not seem to recommend it in politics, asked Gandhi : 
* ‘Suppose a bloody revolution were to break out in England 
and the liberty of your people were to come out of it! 
What would you do?” Gandhi replied: “I should prevent 
the revolution.” Then while discussing the different attitude 
of Tilak, Gandhi admitted that Tilak expressly preferred the 
liberty of his people to truth, but that he, Gandhi, would 
prefer truth to liberty. These words were repeated, rather 
imprudently, by Richard, and provoked a storm amongst 
Indian nationalists. Richard has noted (as I have) Gandhi’s 
secret preference for the English ideal and his invincible hope 
that this ideal will finally break clear of the perversions of 
politics. He believes that if Gandhi were to leave his 
prison, he would still be ready to sign an entente with a 
regenerated British Empire. 

26. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

4 or 5 February 1924.— Release of Mahatma Gandhi. It 
seems that this is one of the first acts of the new Labour 

27. Romain Rolland to Ganesan 

Villa Olga , 
Villeneuve ( Vaud ), Switzerland 
Wednesday, 6 February 1924 

All joy at the news that the Mahatma is released! Joy 
to him, to Mahatma Gandhi and to all his people. 

I hope he is not very seriously ill. Would that he knows 
that in Europe thousands of friends love him and thank 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


him for the light that his life of sacrifice and of love is for 

Romain Rolland 


I am told that my little book on the Mahatma ha 
appeared in Hindi and in Gujarati. Can you send me a 
specimen of these editions? 

Please tell the Mahatma that W. W. Pearson who had a 
very devout love for him spent with me at Villeneuve an 
afternoon and another evening of last September two days 
before the fateful railway accident where he met with his 
death. In this last evening his thoughts were constantly about 
the Mahatma with a religious tenderness. Before his depar- 
ture as if moved by a presentiment, he left with me the 
photograph which represents him with Andrews by the side 
of Gandhi in the Transvaal in 1913 or 1914. The photograph 
is here, near my table in my room in the Villa Olga. 

6th February 1924 

Romain Rolland 

28. Romain Rolland and Paul Richard to Gandhi 

Villeneuve ( Suisse ) 
17 February 1924 


Mahatma Gandhi 
Sabarmati (India) 

We join together to send you our message of love 
and admiration. 

There you are, free again, after the glorious shade of the 
jail, in the sunshine of the battlefield. 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

May India be ready this time. 

And may Europe also hear your voice in her wilderness ! 
Yours in the love of India and the service of Humanity, 

Paul Richard Romain Rolland 

29. Romain Rolland to Mahadev Desai 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) , Switzerland 
24 February 1924 

.... If I have unconsciously committed a few mistakes 
in the little book 1 that I have dedicated to him, let the 
Mahatma excuse me for the sake of the great love and 
veneration that his life and philosophy have inspired in 
me. A European may, often, be deceived in his judgment 
about an individual, or a nation, of Asia. But his heart can- 
not be deceived, when he finds in them the common God 
and universal love. As our European Mahatma — Beethoven 
— sings in his Ode to Joy: Let us — millions of human beings 
— embrace each other. 


Romain Rolland 

(Post-card depicting the Lake of Geneva) 

1 Romain Rolland’s essay, first published, in the review Europe 
sutsequently published with modifications, by Stock (late 1923). 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


30. Romain Holland to Dilip Komar Roy 

Villeneuve ( Vaui) Villa Olga 
24 February 1924 

.... Many affectionate thanks for your letter from 
Bombay, and thank you for speaking about me to Gandhi 
in the way you did. Your conversation with him is very 
interesting, and I may publish part of it (suppressing the 
parts concerning me) in a French review. It’s of great im- 
portance to know this aspect of Gandhi’s thought, and you 
are the first to bring it out. It’s a pity that Gandhi stop- 
ped in the middle of his artistic profession of faith. After the 
passage in which he says, £ ‘I wanted the walls of the Ashram 
to remain bare”, one would have expected him to say: 
“But I nevertheless admire such and such a masterpiece of 
Indian painting or architecture.” All he talks about is the 
starry vault. Obviously Nature is the supreme artist, but 
one would have liked Gandhi to add: “Let man be an 
artist like her! Fie too should create beautiful harmonic 
relationships with lines, colours, sounds and thoughts!” His 
conception seems to remain passive in face of Nature, 
or the divine principle hidden in her, which alone is ac- 
tive and creative. If God is in each of us, then we should seek, 
within our means, to be in the image of the Master of Beauty. 

I seemed to sense through the text of your conversa- 
tions that Gandhi and his friends were a little shocked at 
what I wrote about the Mahatma’s notions of art. I must 
say I don’t remember having passed any critical remarks 
on this subject, but if I have made some involuntary errors 
in my little book, if I may unsuspectingly have caused some 
displeasure to the Mahatma, I sincerely regret it. It’s so 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

natural for a European to go wrong in his judgments of 
an Asiatic mind, even if he feels for it the respect and love 
I feel for Gandhi. But there’s no vanity in my passionate 
quest for penetration into all living souls. I ask for nothing 
better than to be told of my errors so that I can correct them. 

You say how surprised and sad you are that no Euro- 
pean (intellectual or politician) has devoted to India or 
Gandhi the passionate interest they deserve. But first do 
you know that no one has done .more to make Gandhi’s 
true and holy grandeur misunderstood than the Indians in 
Europe — and even some Indians in India! Sometimes they’re 
Indian Bolsheviks who make Gandhi into a fanciful creature 
with no practical intelligence; sometimes they make him 
into a cunning Bolshevik using non-violence as a tempo- 
rary expedient. Barbusse’s Clarte and the French Commu- 
nist paper L’HumaniU have published articles signed by 
Indian names arguing these two contradictory theses, and 
the result is that at the end of the day everyone is totally 
confused. That’s not all; when, very recently, the Women’s 
International League for Peace and Liberty had the idea 
of making a public protest to obtain Gandhi’s release, it 
received a very violent letter opposing this from Indian 
women (in India) who presented Gandhi as an apostle of vio- 
lence ! They quoted a truncated passage from one of his 
writings saying that, before achieving her freedom, India 
would have to pass through a river of blood! They care- 
fully avoided explaining that what Gandhi meant was not 
the blood of the enemy, but the personal sacrifice of mil- 
lions of the non-violent! I shan’t give you the names of 
these bad Indians — first because I haven’t the right, and 
secondly because it would be wrong to arouse the passions of 
other Indians against them [which would sm against Gandhis in- 
tentions). But you must take account of this fact; Europe 
rarely finds Indians such as yourself and Kalidas Nag who 
can tell her about India with exactitude and love. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Although, you’ve read my articles on Gandhi in 
Europe, I’m sending you the little volume. I’m obliged to 
say that it’s widely read. Although the critics avoided talk- 
ing about it (as they usually do with me), there are new 
editions coming out all over the place, and I know that 
some French readers have been overwhelmed by it. 

I still have a burning desire to come to India. Material 
difficulties and my fragile health wouldn’t stop me; the 
only problem is my old father (88 years old) whom it’s 
hard to leave behind and not very easy to bring. 

.... Did I tell you that Pearson spent two days (not 
successively) at Villeneuve and that last time he was with 
me he entrusted me with the fine photograph showing the 
Mahatma (in the Transvaal in 1913 or 1914) seated bet- 
ween the standing figures of Andrews and Pearson. I’ve 
had it reproduced, and it will be published as a frontispiece 
to the volume of extracts from Young India (Gandhi’s arti- 
cles) whose French and German translations are at present 
with the printers. . . . 

31. Extract from Remain Holland’s Diary 

1 March 1924- Mme. Duchene comes to dinner. She 
is a delegate of the French Committee of the Women’s Lea- 
gue for Peace and Liberty at the Washington Congress. 

She has been in England, and brings back disappoint- 
ing impressions. . . . Labour cannot even be given the cre- 
dit for Gandhi’s release, for this was an act decided on by 
the previous ministry. (This is a certain fact, attested by the 
very sincere and perfectly well-informed Miss Marshall.) 

Gandhi came very close to dying while in English hands; 
the papers reaching us from India now reveal this. Sick 
with dysentery since the end of December, he had been 
examined negligently by the doctors. His state suddenly 


Romara Holland and GandM : Correspondence 

got worse, and Col. Maddock, called in great haste, 
diagnosed an abscess on the appendix and, without even 
asking the governor’s permission, urgently’.' took , Gandhi in 
his car to hospital and operated on him (13 January). For 
three days the sick man hung between life and death, for 
the disease was deep-rooted and Gandhi in a weak state. 
England must have trembled, for if Gandhi had died in 
prison, there would have been a ferocious rising in India. 
Thus they made haste to sign the order for his release (early 
February). Gandhi never lost his lucidity of mind. Dilip 
Kumar Roy has sent me an interview he had with him 
during his convalescence in which they discussed my book 
and music. Gandhi has been ordered to rest for some 
months, and one senses that he takes no joy in resumi n g 
the burden of his responsibilities. 

32. Extract from Remain Rolled 5 sjpMary 

March 1924.-S. Ganesan, the Madras publisher, sends 
me a message from Gandhi (Madras, 28 February). He 
went to Poona, where he saw “Mahatmaji” and C. F. An- 
drews. He read him my message, and Gandhi asked him 
to send me his: 

“I was very happy to have the translation of his letter, 
and I thank him for his good wishes. I eagerly wish 
to be able to meet him face to face. It was a great 
happiness and consolation to me to learn that Pear- 
son had been with him two days before his fatal acci- 
dent. I lived with him in profound intimacy in South 
Africa, and I know that we loved each other with 
brotherly affection.” 1 

Ganesan had just received Au-dessus de la Melee, Les 
Pi ecurseurs, Jean-Christophe and Clerambault. He left them for 

1 Retranslated. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Gandhi to read, on Gandhi’s request. He is still very weak, 
and still in need of weeks of rest before he can resume his 
activities; but his whole free time is taken up by giving 
advice to various people. My book, Gandhi, has appeared 
in its entirety in the Gujarati and Hindi editions of Young India. 

He sends me a fine facsimile edition of Gandhi’s original 
manuscript for Hind Swaraj. It is written in Gujarati. 

33. Extract from Romam RoUamd’s Diary 

10 March 1924.-A. young Parsee from Poona, Fram- 
roze Pestonji Pocha .... Parsee Pocha saw Gandhi last 
month in hospital, shortly before his operation. He knew 
him already and found him transfigured. Beforehand iris 
face had always been calm, no doubt, but with traces of 
care. Now it was illuminated by smiling serenity. Pocha has 
little time for most of the disciples, but he venerates Mrs. 
Gandhi; he says that it is hard to imagine her holy kind- 
ness; she has counted for much more in Gandhi’s life than 
is generally thought. The little untouchable girl they adop- 
ted is the only girl in the family. Pocha has seen her give 
a piece of bread she had bitten to Gandhi, who ate it; a 
simple enough thing here, but of exceptional significance 
in India, where prejudices are so strong. 

34. Romam Rolland to Kalidas Nag 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
Sunday, 16 March 1924 

.... The reprints of my little volume on Mahatma 
Gandhi, both in French and German, are multiplying at 
a rate which surprises the publishers (particularly the French 
publisher — an estimable fellow who’d never heard of 


Romain Rolland and GandHi : Correspo ndence 

Gandhi when I offered him my study, and tried to make 
himself pleasant to me by saying: “I don’t doubt that he’s 
a good writer if it’s you that recommends him! 5 ’). The 
revelation of Gandhi’s personality has echoed to the depths 
of many French religious circles, particularly in the Pro- 
testant world. The Protestant churches failed so lament- 
ably in their role during the war years that many con- 
sciences, disorientated and without a guide, are delighted 
to find one in Gandhi and believe they can see in him the 
faithful representative of Christ’s pure thought. Although 
there’s a large measure of historical error in this judgment, 
it also reflects a profound moral truth, and I believe the 
Mahatma would be pleased if he knew about it. 

I’m following events in India attentively, going by 
the press cuttings which you and Ganesan send me. I’m 
writing a few extra pages to my book today for the next 
French edition. . . . 

35. Extract from Romain Holland 5 s Diary 

March 1924,— Eug. Agnanine tells me (15 March) that 
my book on Gandhi has recently been put on the index 
in Russia. 

It has now been published in nearly all languages; 
editions are following hard on each other’s heels in France 
and Germany; and it is making a deep impression in the 
religious world, particularly among Protestants. It re- 
awakens the sleeping Christ in them. The Mahatma himself” 
almost seems Christ reborn. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


36. Extract from Romain Holland* s Diary 

Late March 1924 — Wrote a post-face to the twenty-first 
edition of my Gandhi , bringing up to date the story of events 
in India since Gandhi's liberation. 

37. Gandhi to Remain Holland 

22 March 1924 

Dear Friend, 

I appreciate your loving card. What does it matter 
that you have in places made mistakes in your essay? 
The wonder to me is that you have made so few and that 
you have succeeded, though living in a different and 
distant atmosphere. In so truly interpreting my message. It 
demonstrates once more the essential oneness of human 
nature though flourishing under different skies. 

With much regard. 

Yours sincerely, 
M. K. Gandhi 

P.S. Pray excuse the pencil hand. My hand is yet too 
shaky to manage the ink-pen. 

M. K. G. 


Romaia Holland and GandM : Correspondence 

38. Extract from Romaia Rollaad’s Diary 

April 1924-0. F. Andrews writes to me from Santi- 
niketan (2 March, in English) : 

“My dear friend,-! am staying at this time with 
Mahatma Gandhi, and I have been with him now in his 
very serious illness for over a month and a half. It has been 
a very great joy to me to be with him and a great privi- 
lege. His life is one of great beauty to watch day by day. 
Every part of it is full of sacrifice and thought for others; 
and there seems to be no thought of self at all. The poet’s, 
Rabindranath Tagore’s, life is also a very great joy to 
watch; but there one seems to see the inner life in com- 
munion with itself and finding its own inner peace in soli- 
tude. Here, in Mahatmaji, it is the passion for others 
which is supreme, — a Christ-like passion .... With Mahat- 
maji, the one passion is to serve. Even in his terrible illness, the 
difficulty was to keep him from some little act of service which 
might strain him. All the patients near his bed were thought of by 
him , night and day. The nurse must be cared for, if she looked 
overtired; and now that he is slightly better and convalescent, 
he has brought down two young girls who are invalids, in order 
to gain them the benefit of the sea air. In all this he is a St. 
Francis of Assisi. But his mind is essentially practical, and he 
deals with the most intricate problems of modern times. I have 
thought of him often (in the past) as being ‘mediaeval’ 
in his conception of life (and here and there that strain un- 
doubtedly rims through). But he has in some ways gone 
further even than the science of today, and thought out 
on scientific lines the problems of the future. In this sense 
he is ultra-modern.” 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


39. Extract from Rornain Rolland’s Diary 

April 1924.-$. Ganesan writes to me (20 March) that 
he has recently seen Gandhi, whose wound is completely 
cured. The Mahatma is in a rest home near Bombay; he 
is reading my books, keeps them always by him and will be 
writing to me soon. In Poona, Ganesan had talked to him 
of my book about him. Gandhi was pleased with it; only 
he found that I had not properly understood two points of 
his doctrine, and he announced his intention of writing to 
me on the subject through Andrews. One of these points 
was my harsh judgment on his disciple, Professor Kalelkar, 
and the Gospel of Swadeshi. He said that I could not 
judge these ideas by a few articles in a book, and that I 
should come to India. 4 'I am sure he will have to change 
his opinion.” Kalelkar also planned to write to me. As to 
Ganesan, his personal opinion was that my remarks on 
Gandhi’s disciples were only too apt, but he regretted that 
I chose Kalelkar to express them, for he, along with Maha- 
dev Desai, is Gandhi’s best disciple: those two have best 
understood him. 

Mahatma Gandhi writes to me in person, in reply to 
a short note in which I said I was afraid I might not always 
have properly grasped his thought, and would like to cor- 
rect my mistakes if he pointed them out to me. 

(Written in pencil, with a firm hand, despite his con- 
cluding observation. In English.) 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

40. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

26 May 1924 (Prague) .-In the morning, a visit from 
Valentin Bulgakov....! encourage him to make contact 
with Gandhi and link the Tolstoyan group with that cen- 
tred on Young India ; this he promises to do. 

41. Extract from Romain Holland’ s Diary 

Sunday, 1 June 1924 (Prague) .-I am receiving piles of 
volumes and albums to sign. The striking thing is that 
among those who own copies of my books there are hotel 
staff, chauffeurs, etc. (On the way from Zurich to Vienna, 
didn’t I see a copy of my Gandhi, in French, in the hands 
of a young sleeping-car attendant?) 

42. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

16 June 1924 (Villeneuve) .-Visited by the Hindu poli- 
tical leader Lala Lajpat Rai .... (Gandhi often speaks of 
him in his articles with esteem and affection.) He was the 
first man in India to be locked up for civil disobedience, 
and he remained in prison for two years, from 1921 to 
1923.... He has a much more precise mind than most 
Hindus, and has noted a series of chronological errors in 
my book; he points them out to me, for which I am most 
grateful. The main one is that Gandhi did not wait for Tilak’s 
death before he resolutely entered the political arena; six 
months before he had already founded his party, and it 
was already beginning to relegate Tilak’s into the second 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


place. Lajpat Rai, who was Tilak’s friend, had passed to 
Gandhi’s side when he (Rai) was president of the All-India 
Congress in 1920, at which both Gandhi and Tilak spoke; 
Tilak held this desertion against him. 

43. Extract from Roxnain Holland's Diary 

June 1924 (Villeneuve). -Visited by Lala Lajpat Rai’s 
young secretary, K. D. Kohli. He brings me (on my request) 
a list of details to be corrected in the new editions of my 
Mahatma Gandhi. 

.... He is naturally inclined to attribute to his em- 
ployer, Lajpat Rai, a role of the first importance. He says 
that until his imprisonment, Gandhi always used to con- 
sult him about political matters. . . . He tells me one impor- 
tant fact: before the events at Chaui'i Chaura, when Gan- 
dhi was about to proclaim civil disobedience over all India, 
the Viceroy, Lord Reading, was so worried that he sent 
for Lajpat Rai and Pandit X. and offered them regional 
autonomy if Gandhi withdrew his order of revolt. Laj- 
pat Rai and his companion sent a telegram to Gandhi who, 
ike them, accepted, and at once sent a telegram announcing 
his acceptance to the Viceroy. But a delay in communica- 
ions caused his telegram to arrive only on the morning 
)n which disobedience was due to start, and from then on 
he course of events is known. Lajpat Rai now considers 
hat it was better so. He was the first to be imprisoned 
n the great movement of non-co-operation. At present 
le still admires Gandhi as much as ever, but thinks he is 
;oing off the tracks politically by cutting himself off from 
he Swaraj Party. He says that one of the two things will 
lappen; either India will not obey Gandhi’s political pres- 
riptions or she will be defeated. 

I receive copies from Ganesan of the Tamil edition 
>f my book on Gandhi. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

44. Romaim Rolland to M. Eippmann, 
Missionary in Canara (India) 

Villeneuve , 27 July 1924 

.... I cannot understand who could have started such 
a baseless rumour! Gandhi has neither the time nor the 
desire to come to Switzerland for his health. He pays no 
heed to his health. He has returned to the thick of his 
political activities, and the present crisis is too serious for 
him to turn his attention away for even a moment. He 
regularly writes and publishes his articles and “mandates” 
in his weekly review Toung India, in Madras; if you are 
interested in his thought, I suggest you subscribe to this 
English-language journal ( published by Ganesan, 29, Pyciofts 
Road, Triplicane , Madras...). 

45. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

28 July visit from Lajpat Rai. . . . He 
is in a hurry to see Gandhi again and bring some 
pressure to bear on him: for he is the only Indian 
politician able to advise Gandhi and command any of his 
attention; the only first-rate political leader, along with 
Das — and perhaps more than Das. But as far as I can 
see, his mind moves purely and simply on the level of poli- 
tics; if he accepted Gandhi’s doctrine of non-co-operation, 
it was merely for political reasons. (Which can hardly please 
Gandhi, I feel.) Lajpat Rai totally disapproves of Gandhi’s 
programme since his liberation, and says that if he does 
not change it he will have to break away from him, which 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


will be a serious blow to the prestige of the Indian cause 
— but there is no other way. His argument is that Gandhi 
can choose between only two courses: either he can with- 
draw from politics, retaining only the moral or religious 
direction of India, and the training of great disciples who 
will bear his thought; or else he can totally abandon his 
political tactics and rally to that of the Swarajists. His 
stubbornness in imposing the charkha (the spinning wheel) 
on all party members is absurd and doomed to defeat; 
worse still, it will split the party. Similarly, the boycott 
of the tribunals, schools, etc., which in itself is good and 
just, is in practice impossible to maintain. The party agreed 
to accept it only as a short-term experiment, and at the end 
of the set term, the results, which were inadequate or frank- 
ly bad, proved that it had to be given up. Of all his 
politico-religious doctrine, Gandhi should retain only non- 
violence, which is its heart, and not hang on to the rest, 
in which factual experimentation should keep him his 
freedom of movement. In any case, Lajpat Rai himself 
believes that non-violence, though politically true as a 
tactical means of combat for India (because of her enor- 
mous numerical force and vitality), cannot be an absolute 
and universal principle; for a small nation threatened by a 
large one, the political duty is to have recourse to arms. 
We have a discussion about this, and I am not of his opi- 
nion, even from a strictly practical and political point of 
view; I believe that a struggle undertaken in such condi- 
tions leads to ruin, and that the best, the most efficient 
weapon is the tenacious moral resistance of a non-violent, 
non-accepting people. But this depends on the quality of the 
soul, which must be of a moral firmness able to withstand 
all trials. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

46. Extract from Romain. Rolland’s Diary 

17 August -Visited by P. Richard — . He has just 
spent two days with a Catholic priest in Paris — a most open 
mind, he says, and very sympathetic to Gandhi’s doctrines. 
Once again I notice Paul Richard’s underlying lack of sym- 
pathy for Tagore and Gandhi. I believe it is involuntary, 
and when he is made aware of it he reacts sharply; but 
it soon re-emerges. At heart, he cannot forgive Tagore his 
aristocratic side, and as for Gandhi he has no taste for 

47. Romain RolJand to C. F. Andrews 

Villeneuve (Vaud) Villa Olga 
Wednesday , 24 September 1924 

.... I also wanted to tell you how much I admire your 
most moving book Christ and Labour. I have spoken of it 
in several quarters here and tried to shake the inconceiv- 
able apathy of those Swiss Protestant groups who take an 
interest, or so they claim, in missions in India, and who 
know nothing about what your books reveal — who don’t 
even seek to read them. 

Unfortunately I have, as always, been taken up by 
so many tasks that I have not been able to write to you 
sooner. But I’m making a point of doing so today without 
further delay, as it’s quite urgent. 

First, I must tell you that your very readable article, 
A Day in the Life of Mahatma Gandhi, has been translated 
by my sister and will appear in French in the Paris Revue 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Europienne, which is very happy to publish it. I shall also 
have it published in German, either in a major Swiss paper 
(the Neue £nrcher fitting) or in one of the major Vienna 
papers ( Neue Freie Presse ). I should like it to be possible to 
publish other articles by you as striking as this one on 
India or other Asian countries in European papers and 
reviews. These direct, precise and well-documented testimonies 
are of very high value to us, and can have a greater effect 
on the European mind than general considerations and 
intellectual discussions .... 

48. Remain Holland to C. F. Andrews 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
28 October 1924 

.... Your most interesting account of a day in the 
life of Gandhi is to appear in the November number of La 
Revue Europienne, and I’ve told them to send you a few copies. 
The Neue pjurcher geitung (the biggest German-language 
Swiss newspaper) has also published it. I took the liberty 
of adding a few introductory lines to the French version. 

.... Some Russian friends have written to tell me that 
the Bolshevik government might be making some strange 
advances to Gandhi. The Russian representative in Berlin, 
Mr. Krestinsky, is supposed to have been instructed by the 
Russian Foreign Office to offer an official reception (?) 
to Gandhi and “make use of the situation to spread acti- 
vist (Bolshevik) propaganda among his adepts”. Further- 
more, Krestinsky is said to have been asked to invite 
Gandhi to visit Russia. He has been authorized to give a 
subsidy towards publishing propaganda literature among 
the oppressed peoples of Asia, and he is to institute in 
the Oriental Club and Secretariat a scholarship bearing 
Gandhi’s name for students who share his ideas (Gandhi’s 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

ideas, or Moscow’s?). In conclusion, three Hindus are said 
to have been attached to him for this task: Manabendra 
Nath Roy, Bakandsha Rustem-Kala and Bairana Suvaima. 
(I don’t know the last two names, which are probably 
spelt wrong, but that of the Bolshevik Hindu Manabendra 
Nath Roy is enough to show the Marxist revolutionary 
character of the enterprise.) All this has been published in 
some Russian newspapers, such as Rul on 18 October. 

I expect Gandhi will be shrewd enough to unravel 
Moscow’s true motives, but I thought it was worth telling 
you about it, so that you can help to enlighten him if neces- 
sary. I admire the intelligence and energy of the Bolshe- 
vik government, but I am profoundly hostile to its ways 
of going about things which are totally lacking in frank- 
ness. Its policy in its struggle to destroy the present Euro- 
pean system is to use all the great forces which are opposed 
to European imperialism, even those which are also opposed 
to the Bolshevik system of violence and oppression. The 
Soviet commissars and their propagandists pretend to adapt 
themselves to the ideas of the supporters of non-violence 
so as to make use of them; then, after compromising them, 
when they have no further use for them, they scornfully 
trample on them. They have many times tried to use the 
names of myself and Anatole France in this way, but for 
my part I have always energetically kept on my guard. I 
certainly prefer Moscow to Washington, and Russian Marx- 
ism to American and European imperialism. But I claim 
to be as independent of the one as I am of the other, 
c "above the battle!” The Civitas Dei , the holy city of non- 
violence and human fraternity must keep out of all alli- 
ances and compromises with the violent elements in any 
class or any party. . . . 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


49. Extract from Mahadev Desai’s Diary 

23 November 1924.-Nla.y your life bring Europe and 
India together!” 1 * 

59. Romaic. Rolland to Kalidas Nag 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
Thursday , 18 December 1924 

.... Thank you for warning me how ready Roy is 
to pass on letters written to him to the press X I shall be 
on my guard in future. Anyway Roy honestly (and naive- 
ly) sent me the papers in which he published my letter, 
and I’m not too sorry that my personal remarks have been 
repeated in public. As to the interviews on art to which 
he submits Gandhi, he ought to leave the Mahatma in 
peace; the Mahatma has better things to do at the mo- 
ment than argue about aesthetics .... 

51. Extract from Remain Rolland 9 s Diary 

December 1924.— Kalidas Nag, who recently saw Gandhi, 
tells me about their meeting (21 November): 

£t . . . . Since my return to India (he had been with Tagore 
to China and Japan), I very much wanted the chance to 
meet the Mahatma and to bear him your personal 

1 Message on an invitation card for the peace conference at 

Vienna sent by Romain Rolland to Gandhi through Dr. Kalidas Nag. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

greetings. . . . This chance came suddenly without my doing 
anything towards it, when the Mahatma came to Calcutta 
a few days ago and stayed for a week with C. R. Das, mak- 
ing the final arrangements for the unification of the party. 
I am not a politician, as you know; I do not understand 
the importance of this pact; perhaps I have my doubts on 
this compromise. But I was asked to appear on 7 Nov- 
ember before Gandhi, who had looked for my address — thanks 
to your generous mention of my name in your preface — , 
and I was proud to sit at his feet a little while. He ap- 
peared pale and emaciated, but a special light shone m 
his eyes; and he had the divine smile which calms the soul. . . . 
Who would imagine that this man was the leader of mil- 
lions! He seemed very weak after the terrible three-week 
fast; but his mind was as alert as ever. He blessed me when 
I bowed before him, and then he asked me about you. I 
gave him information about you as much as it was in 
my power in this brief interview; and as a symbol of your 
friendship and admiration, and in memory of all your 
spiritual disciples whom I had the good fortune to meet 
for the first time at that summer school in Lugano (at which, 
on the recommendation of my sister Madeleine, I was 
privileged to speak about Gandhi’s life), in memory of this 
event and as a symbol, I said, of your spiritual appreciation, 
I offered the Mahatma a card (illustrated) from the Con- 
gress of Women on which I had your signature, if you re- 
member. Mahatma was deeply touched and asked a series 
of questions on you and our ‘ brother workers in the West 
who work for the same cause, the common cause of Humanity, of 
Peace and Love* . He asked me to send you the confirmation 
of ‘his 5 soul on the truth of that great cause. But I felt that 
the Mahatma, for his part, also seeks a confirmation from you , and 
from our spiritual brothers in the West, whose goodwill and 
co-operation are indispensable to the triumph of the great 
cause of Humanity .... This is a thousand times more im- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


portant to me than the praise or blame which may come 
from the West, than any political movement or any govern- 
mental folly. Gandhi the politician may fade into insigni- 
ficance with time; but Gandhi who has united, concentra- 
ted or symbolized in his person the diverse and still con- 
flicting currents of the humanitarian activities of an age, 
this Gandhi will live and be resplendent for ever. Probably 
he will find his truest disciples and friends in the West rather 
than in the East, which is wallowing in its materialistic and 
nationalist preoccupations. Perhaps it was in this light 
that I understood the mysterious words of the Mahatma 
when I took leave of him: 

‘Tell Mr. Romain Rolland that I am trying to live 
up to his interpretation of my humble life.’...” 

52. Romain Rolland to Fernand Benoit (India) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
4 January 1925 

.... Thank you for your excellent letters. The last one 
particularly interested me. You did very well to use my 
introduction to Young India for the Modern Review , and I am 
pleased that the Review published it. We receive Young India 
regularly, and Andrews also keeps us in touch with Gandhi’s 
life and activities .... 

53. Extract from Romain Rolland 5 s Diary 

January 1925.-1 have warned Gandhi that his name w'as 
being abused in Europe .... The Moscow Communists (or 
those who follow their line) are showing two faces: on the 
one hand they treat Gandhi as an enemy and proclaim the 
bankruptcy of non-violence in India, on the other they 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

disguise Gandhi as a Bolshevik (see Barbusse) and put about 
unlikely rumours of an imminent visit to Moscow. Gandhi 
who, until now, has treated Bolshevism more or less as if 
it did not exist, this time puts the record straight in his 
journal Young India (first half of December 1924), and clearly 
repudiates Bolshevism. He writes thus: 

“.... I have received no invitation from Germany or 
Russia, nor have I the slightest desire to visit these great 
countries. In any case I have no wish to launch myself 
into any foreign adventure. My path is clear. Any at- 
tempt to use me for violent purposes is bound to fail. I 
have no secret methods. I have no weapon but non-violence. 
I am yet ignorant of what exactly Bolshevism is. I have 
not been able to study it. I do not know whether it is 
for the good of Russia in the long run. But I do know that 
in so far as it is based on violence and denial of God, it 
repels me. I am an uncompromising opponent of violent 
methods even to serve the noblest of causes. There is, there- 
fore, really no meeting-ground between the school of vio- 
lence and myself.” 

This declaration has infuriated the Indian Bolsheviks 
in Moscow, whose leader, Manabendra Nath Roy, had 
perhaps suggested and counted on this misunderstanding 
which Gandhi has just torn open. He launched a violent 
protest against Gandhi, who scornfully published it in 
Toung India (early January 1925) with a few lines of crush- 
ing courtesy, categorically reaffirming his decision. 

His declaration has done the rounds of the European 
press, who of course exploited it against the Bolsheviks, and 
set up against the lies of the latter their own opposite lie, 
no less repulsive. Le Matin (“via London”) published a so- 
called extract from Gandhi’s article, half of which (the 
repudiation of Bolshevism) was exact, and the other half 
entirely false. The author of the lie did not tax his powers 
of invention; he simply transposed Gandhi’s negations into 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


affirmations. He made the Mahatma say that Moscow had 
sent him propositions and money to foment a revolt in 
India, but he had refused. 

54. Remain Holland to Dinesh Ranjan Das 

Villeneuve (Valid) Villa Olga 
8 February 1925 

While you are doing me the honour of translating 

and publishing Jean-Christophe in Bengali, some of my Euro- 
pean friends would like to make your new Indian litera- 
ture better known here. The Zurich publisher, Emil Roni- 
ger, who has already taken the initiative in publishing 
Gandhi’s works in Europe, is trying to build up a collection 
(in French and German) of Indian novels, short stories 
and essays. What is lacking is English translations made in 
India of your best contemporary works.... This would be 
an effective way of working for the gloiy of your country, 
for these English translations could then be rendered here 
into other European languages and disseminated in our 
European nations. 

I should also encourage your Indian writers to publish 
English-language biographies of great Indian characters: 
poets, artists, scholars, thinkers, etc., more or less on the 
same plan as my Vies de Beethoven , de Michel-Ange, de Tolstoy, 
de Mahatma Gandhi. Nothing would be better able to inspire 
admiration and love for India in Europe, which misunder- 
stands India. Europe is strongly individualistic, and will 
always be more struck by a great figure, by a man, than by 
an idea. Show her your great men, — your sages and your 
'.heroes! . . . 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

55. Extract from Romain Holland 5 s Diary 

18-19 February / 5^5. -Visited by L. K. Elmhirst, Tagore’s 
companion in China and Buenos Aires. ... He is profoundly 
convinced that he (Tagore) understands the Indian 
peasant better than Gandhi and that his plan of rural recons- 
truction is better and more efficient than Gandhi’s system. 
He never tires of criticizing the charkha (the spinning wheel) , 
and L. Elmhirst repeats his criticisms on his own account. 
He claims that Gandhi’s plan is valid only for country 
areas close to towns. But the whole of Gandhi’s policies meet 
with Tagore’s disapproval. L. Elmhirst, who reflects him in 
this, speaks of them (following his master) with obvious hosti- 
lity and little understanding. The thinker who does not act 
finds it easy to point out discrepancies, at least apparent dis- 
crepancies, between the doctrine and the actions of a man 
who has the responsibility for 300,000,000 men. He even 
goes so far as to accuse him of betraying the cause of the 
untouchables because, in order not to complicate the pre- 
sent entente between the Indian parties over immediate 
action, Gandhi did not speak about the untouchables at 
the last Congress. One senses at the bottom of this the in- 
vincible antipathy between the free mind in love with all 
forms of life (and with a fair dose of dilettantism) and the 
puritan who imposes rules of mortification, asceticism and. 
harsh disciplines on his disciples — so as to build them into a 
militia ready for any sacrifice. Gandhi’s indifference to suffer- 
ing — to his own as to that of others — when it is offered 
as a sacrifice to a noble cause, revolts Tagore to the point of 
injustice. It seems that he refuses to recognize its moral gran- 
deur. Elmhirst presents Gandhi’s unmoved reaction to the 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


strikes he decreed and the resultant ruins as the sign of a 
cold politician. He could hardly misunderstand more the 
soul of this heroic believer. Tagore, Gandhi: two worlds, 
moving further and further apart. 

56 . Extract from Remain Holland’s Diary 

April 1925.— The Polish writer, Ladislas Reymcnt (win- 
ner of last year’s Nobel Prize for literature), writes to me 
from Paris, asking me permission to translate my life of 
Gandhi into Polish. 

The same request has been made for Portuguese by a 
group of young Indians from the University of Coimbra 
(signed by Francisco Adeodato Barreto). They say how 
sad and indignant they are that in their own little country, 
Portuguese India (Goa), they are left completely in igno- 
rance of the great Indian fatherland — all the glories of the 
past and present, Tilak, Gandhi, Tagore; — it was through 
my book that they discovered them! 

57. Romain Holland to Kalidas Nag 

2 May 1925 

.... I am adding two articles to these documents 
which will show you the panic-stricken obsession of our 
French nationalists with a possible Asiatic Union. The same 
Henri Massis who is denouncing me today for handing 
over Europe to Asia was denouncing me during the war for 
handing over France to Germany. It was he who in 1915 
published the pamphlet, Romain Rolland contre la France , and 
it is he who recently set in motion the enquiry to which 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Sylvaia Levi replied in Les Appels de V Orient} 

As to the article from Le Matin , I send it to you as a 
typical example. It’s characteristic that Le Matin (one of 
the largest newspapers in Paris) has published blow by blow 
a whole series of leading articles in this tone. They’re try- 
ing to launch a whole campaign against Asia in the field of 
public opinion. 

58. Extract from Remain Rolland 1 * * * 5 s Diary 

14 September 1925 . -Visited by Madeleine Slade. This 
young Englishwoman, about thirty years old, daughter of 
an admiral who commanded the fleet in the Indian Ocean, 
has been touched by grace; she has been converted to the 
faith of Mahatma Gandhi, has decided to give her life to 
his service, and is about to leave for India and enter the 
Sabarmati Ashram near Ahmedabad, into which Gandhi 
has accepted her. She is tall, strong, quite good-looking, 
very dark (as dark as an Indian, or a gipsy: indeed her 
maternal great-grandmother was one, married at St. Peters- 
burg, to the scandal of the very insular family), pronounced 
features, particularly the nose whose curved shape suggests 
Hungarian affinities. I was the unintentional instrument of 
her destiny. When she first knew me, two years ago in Eng- 
land, her mind was prey to a violent and passionate distur- 
bance, and she could find no way out. She suffered from it 

1 In a publication called Les Appels de l’ Orient, appearing m Febru- 
ary-March. 1925, published by Emile-Paul, Paris, Sylvain Levi, replying 
to an enquiry comparing the East and the West, wrote: Romain Rolland, 

who portrays Gandhi’s India as Philostratus portrayed the India of the Gymno- 
sophists, is doing a disservice to the India which he claims to be glorifying. 

Tagore, who denounces to his compatriots, to China and to Japan the fault, and 

crimes of the West, setting up in opposition an imaginary East, is doing harm 

to Asia, Europe and his own ideals. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


a long time; I guided her a little and introduced her to 
Gandhi. She directed her passion towards this figure whom 
she at once saw as a new Christ; she read all his worts, but 
did not think of following his doctrine. It was last autumn, 
during the Mahatma’s great twenty-one- day fast, that the 
illumination came to her. She determined to devote herself 
to him, she wrote to him, and he replied. She learned Urdu, 
learned to spin the khaddar and adopted the strictly vege- 
tarian Hindu diet. She cashed her small personal fortune 
and said goodbye to her parents. The fine thing is that, 
despite the total intellectual disagreement between her parents 
and herself, they accepted it — even the admiral — regrett- 
ing it, unable to understand, but recognizing the moral 
nobility of her action. No French parent, I fear, would 
have been capable of this self-abnegation and respect for 
her liberty. Now she is setting off with the joy of a young 
novice about to become a Carmelite. Gandhi is sending 
an Indian from the Ashram to meet her at Bombay, where 
she is to land, and take her by rail that night to Ahmedabad. 
He has warned her that life in the Ashram is hard, that 
they eat what they earn each day by their labour and that 
the climate is difficult for a European; but nothing can 
stop her. Besides, she knows India, having been there at 
the age of fifteen on her father’s flagship. At that date 
she saw only the English society there ; her life was an eternal 
round of parties, and it exasperated her. Now she says: 
“Everyone is sorry for me; people say to me: ‘How lonely 
you’ll be, lost among all those Indians !’ I say that it will be the 
first time in my life when I shall not be alone.” 

59. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

September 192 5. -I write to Gandhi to recommend my 
“daughter” Madeleine Slade, who is leaving for Bombay on. 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

24- October. She is writing us letters full of mystic joy, — 
which still find room for common sense and humour. She 
says her example has carried along her parents; her mother 
is spinning, and her father, the admiral, is weaving (curs- 
ing Gandhi all the while). 

60. Rosnain Holland to Gandhi 

Villeneuve (Switzerland) 
1 October 1925 

My dear Brother, 

You will soon be receiving at Sabarmati Miss Made- 
leine Slade, whom you have been kind enough to admit to 
your Ashram. She is a dear friend of my sister and rnyself; 
I look upon her as a spiritual daughter and I am delighted 
that she is coming to put herself under your direction. I 
know how good it will be for her, and I am sure you will 
find in her one of your most staunch and faithful disciples. 
Her soul is full of admirable energy and ardent devotion; 
she is straightforward and upright. Europe cannot offer 
a /nobler or more disinterested heart to your cause. May she 
bear with her the love of thousands of Europeans, and my 


Romain Rolland 

61. Romain Rolland to Kalidas Nag 


19 October 1925 

.... Tagore has recently written me a fine and dole- 
ful letter, in a firm handwriting which shows no signs of 
sickness, but confiding his sadness and solitude. His 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


distance from Gandhi’s action and thought makes itself felt 
ever more commandingly. I understand him; they each 
have their own mission, and neither of them can or may give 
it up. That of Tagore is loftier and more remote; it is aimed 
at the soaring human spirit, beyond all barriers of classes, 
nations and centuries. That of Gandhi seeks to adapt itself 
to the passing necessities of one people and one age (yet 
without renouncing for himself and his Ashram disciples the 
strict observance of an intransigent faith). It is natural that 
this mixture of holiness and politics should often shock you. 
(In reality it’s not a mixture , but a juxtaposition of these two 
different “orders”.) But in fact it was the same for the great- 
est saints of the West: from St. Benedict to St. Theresa, and 
even the free vagabond of Jesus, Francis of Assisi, finally 
had to submit to it. Neither you nor I nor Tagore could do 
it, for our mission is less in action and thought, less in the 
“order of Charity” (in Pascal’s definition) than in the order 
of Knowledge (which is, for the most highly evolved spirits, 
the supreme Charity). But we should be grateful to the saints 
who are capable of the other mission, less pure and more 
stained with concessions to human weakness, for without 
them, to what depths would human weakness fall! It needs 
an ideal within its reach, an ideal whose practice is easy and 
workaday, an ideal which can be achieved by men’s hands 
(for most men think only with their bodies, in action). It 
is in this sense that I believe Gandhi’s charkha useful (in 
the religious sense) despite everything, like the more or less 
mechanical exercises of the monastic orders. The supreme 
ideal of man is Liberty. But there is a whole hierarchy of 
Liberty (as in living souls), from the infinitely small which 
is hardly distinct from automatism, to the limitless and 
formless Liberty of the victorious Buddha. Life is of infi- 
nite richness and diversity; none of us can reduce it to a 
unity. But each of us must sing his part faultlessly in 
the total harmony, P. D. G. (Per Dei gloriam), as the old 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

European musicians wrote at the end of each of their 
compositions. For the joy of the Master of Harmonies. 

.... On 9 November, one of our European friends, a 
young Englishwoman 1 of very noble and forceful character, 
is entering the Ashram at Sabarmati. She is the daughter 
of an English admiral who commanded the Indian fleet. 
What an astonishing victory for the Indian soul! . . . 

62. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland 

Satyagraha Ashram , 



12 November 1925 

.... Ah, my Father, I could never have imagined 
how divine he is. I had been prepared for a Prophet and I 
have found an Angel. 

And your letter— your two letters to the Mahatma 
and to me — thank you, thank you! Oh! I may become 
worthy. . . . 


63. Gandhi to Romain Rolland 


13 November 1925 

Dear Friend, 

I have your very kind letter. Miss Slade quickly fol- 
lowed it. What a treasure you have sent me! I shall try 
to be worthy of the great trust. I shall leave no stone un- 
turned to assist her to become a bridge between East and 

1 Miss Madeleine Slade 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


West. I am too imperfect to have disciples. She shall be a 
fellow seeker with me and as I am older in years and 
therefore presumably in spiritual experience, X propose to 
share the honour of fatherhood with you. Miss Slade is 
showing wonderful adaptability and has already put us 
at ease about herself. 

I must leave the rest to be told you by Miss Slade 
whom I am asking to tell you all about a French sister who 
came to the Ashram just a few days before she came. 

Yours sincerely, 
M. K. Gandhi 

64. Roxnain Rollartd to Kalidas Nag 


26 November 1925 

.... My sister, who is in Paris for a few weeks and to 
whom I sent on your last letter, tells me you are waiting 
for my authorization to publish my book on Mahatma Gandhi 
in Bengali. I give it to you with great pleasure; I only need 
to remind you that Ganesan has already brought out other 
editions of my book in Hindi, Tamil and English. 

I should like to reply to the various points you touch 
on in your letter, but your letter is in English and my inter- 
preter — my sister — is away, so I don’t know exactly what 
you say in your letter, and I shall have to wait for my sis- 
ter’s return. You see what comes of giving up writing French 
in your correspondence with me! 

.... Don’t be too harsh on Gandhi and his parti- 
cipation in politics! The task is not the same for every- 
one, and there’s room in the Pantheon of great souls for 
both Tagore and Gandhi; each of them saves an essential 
part of our human heritage. If Gandhi succeeds in 
containing — or even merely in delaying for twenty years 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

— the violence which is building up and threatening to break 
its bounds, it will be a priceless benefit for India and 
the whole world, and that is worth the few apparent 
concessions to the world of politics which shock you ! Beware 
lest, without him, the whole of the India you love may 
be inexorably submerged in the unleashed fury of political 
passions! By associating himself with politics, he moderates 
and humanizes them — I should rather say he “divinizes” 
them, as the “human” left to itself is not far from the ani- 
mal! Nor should you forget the radiance he casts on many 
European minds whom he thus brings closer to Asia, and 
to whom India has become a holy land almost with the same 
status as Palestine. It is inevitable that much error should be 
mixed with much truth in these judgments, but this is the 
case with all new faiths. The spirit of humanity collabo- 
rates with the man of God to build the fruitful legend from 
which the new Gospel will spring. . . . 

65. Romain Holland to Madeleine Slade 


17 December 1925 

My dear Daughter, 

How happy we have been with all your letters which 
tell us of your great joy, superior to your expectations, — 
joy to have found the Master of goodness, of love and of 
truth, — joy to have entered at last on the good and just 
way for which you have hunted so long, and where your 
energies will best deploy themselves. 

You remember the word which embodies Wisdom in 
the third act of Parsifal : “ Dieuen ” (to serve). But in Parsi- 
fal it appears to be above all the mission of the woman. And 
it is — it ought to be — your lot. Every being conscious of 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


his responsibilities feels himself joined to other beings, and 
endeavours to serve them with the best that is in him. Of 
all the paths of service that of the Mahatma is one of the 
straightest and most luminous. It leads to the peace of the 
soul. May you taste of it! When you have gathered it, dis- 
tribute to us a few pieces of the delicious fruit! 

Do not forget the light of Europe upon the roads of 
Asia! Make those around you enjoy it! Take and give! 
— I can see you out there in the morning before dawn on 
the nocturnal roads around Sabarmati, by the side of the 
Mahatma, singing to yourself the divine melody of the Hymn 
°f Joy. There, it would not be out of its element. 

I do not know how to thank you enough for the trouble 
that you took in noting down for us in detail all the days 
of your voyage. To us they are — and will remain — a uni que 
testimony of your March to the Star — of this new pilgrimage 
of the Shepherds, who go towards the torch of the 

_ W e are keeping fairly well, — kept up by incessant occu- 
pation and the passion of work, which is as necessary to me 
as the air which I breathe. Long since I should have fallen 
by the way if the creative fire and the mission of work had 
not carried me on! 

Tell the Mahatma how much I thank him for the 
letter which he has written me, in spite of his immense 
activity — and how much I rejoice to know of his being near 
to you, and of your being near to him! In this old Europe 
so full of genius, but at the moment covered as it were with 
a cloud in my beloved land of France, where still there blos- 
som so many souls, simple and pure, courageous and 
charming, but who live apart leaving the government of the 
world and the guidance of opinion to the worst, — I fight, 
alone, without the hope of saving those who do not wish 
to be saved. But I sow for the future the corn that will 
[ripen] when we shall be no more. The grain -does not come 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

from me: I have searched it out through all the world. The 
most beautiful is that which my bird Spirit has brought 
back from the Orient, — the grain of the Great Soul, which 
itself has gathered grain from the Sacred Books of Asia (and 
we have recognized there, mixed with Hinduism, the savour 
of the Gospel. All the seeds of life come from the same 
divine granary). We are a handful of religious souls in 
Europe who thank the Mahatma for rendering to us the 
good pure corn separated from the tares. 

My daughter, it will now be for you to bless us. You 
are giving of yourself for us, and you are at the source of 

Will you ask once of your great friend and Master, to 
offer up with you a brief and silent prayer for us, for our 
peace, for the salvation of ours, so that we may know to 
the last how to be vanquished without bending. 

Mira, I embrace you. A happy Christmas and New 
Year from the lands of snow and the cradle of the Epi- 

Your friend, 
Romain Rolland 

66. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

December 1925 .-' My daughter”, Madeleine Slade, is 
writing us ecstatic letters about her arrival at Sabarmati 
and Gandhi’s welcome. Her series of letters to my sister will 
in due course constitute an amazing document for the reli- 
gious historian. Her conversations with the Mahatma and 
the spirit of adoration in which she listens and retains them 
are just like a new Gospel. Certainly Gandhi is not inferior 
to Christ in goodness and sanctity, and he surpasses him 
in touching humility. As to Madeleine Slade, as I foresaw, 
she is a Holy Woman to this new Saviour. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Gandhi has not been long in recognizing the beauty 
of her soul. He writes to me on 13 November. 

67. Madeleine Slade to Romain Holland 

Satyagraha Ashram , 
8 January 1926 

My dear, dear Father, 

Thank you ever so much for your letter ! I made a 
translation of it (in writing) and gave it to Bapu (as he 
had asked). He read it with an expression of profound con- 
centration, and at the end said: “Ah! Indeed it is a very 
beautiful letter !” And then later he said: “Tell him how 
happy I should be if he could come to India so as to see 
everything for himself — and how much I should like him 
to stay some time with us in the Ashram. Nothing would 
make me happier.” Then afterwards he said: “Tell him 
that this prayer rises to heaven without the asking.” 

Regarding practical matters, I find that the climate here 
is really excellent during December and January. Then 
Bapu would take care of you with all the tenderness of 
his divine love — and he would depute me to serve you in 
all the details of your material comforts (and spiritual ones 
where I can!). We have already decided on having a piano 
brought from Ahmedabad to be put in your room. . . . 



Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

68. Gandhi to Remain Rolland 

Ashram , 
23 April 1926 

Dear Friend, 

This is to introduce to you one of my dearest co- 
workers and friends Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who has gone 
there with his wife. She is suffering from tuberculosis. 
Naturally my friend would like to make your acquaintance 
and pay his respects to you. I know that you will be- 
friend him and his wife. 

Mirabai, as we call Miss Slade here, is getting on very 
well and is quite happy. We often think of you and talk 
about you and the possibility of your visiting India at the 
end of the year. I wonder if your health can bear the 
strain of the visit. 

Yours sincerely. 
M. K. Gandhi 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


69. Jawaharlal Nehru to Romain Rolland 

Hotel Rosa aie , 
Chemin de la Roseraie 25, 


8 May 1926 

Respected Monsieur Rolland, 

I have pleasure in enclosing a letter for you from 
Mr. Gandhi . 1 I am looking forward greatly to meeting you 
and hope I shall have the opportunity before long. I shall 
probably have to stay for some months in Geneva owing 
to my wife’s treatment here. 

I am sorry to have to write this letter in English. I 
am afraid my French is very weak. I am trying, however, 
to improve it a little. 

I trust you are well. 

With regards, 

Yours sincerely, 
Jawaharlal Nehru 

70. Romain Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
11 May 1926 

Dear Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, 

I was happy to receive your letter and that of our 
saintly friend Gandhi. Your name was known to us. Just 

1 Introducing Jawaharlal as “one of my dearest co-workers and 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

within the last few days we read it in a speech published by 
the Hindustan Times . 

My sister and I will be very pleased to see you. Will 
it be possible for you and Madame Nehru to come over 
here one afternoon next week when it is fine, to have tea 
and to spend a few hours at the Villa Olga? Do please tell 
me which day will suit you best between Wednesday the 
19th and Saturday the 22nd May. Should the weather be 
bad on the day you choose, you have only to send a tele- 
gram in the morning saying that you are postponing your 
visit to another day. 

I hope that Madame Nehru will soon feel the good 
effects of the Swiss climate. 

Is it not your little daughter who is in the Inter- 
national School at Geneva ? Her teacher, Miss Hartoch, 
is an excellent friend of ours. She is the best and the 
most devoted woman. You can be sure that your little 
daughter could not be in wiser and more affectionate 

Please accept, dear Mr. Nehru, my friendly affection. 

Romain Rolland 

The Villa Olga is near (a little above) the Hotel 
Byron. If you come by boat, it is ten minutes from the 
landing place of Villeneuve; if you come by rail, you can 
get down at Terri tet Station, take the Vevey- Villeneuve 
electric tram (for Villeneuve) which passes in front of the 
station , and get down at the Hotel Byron Stop. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


71. Jawaharlal Nehru to Romain Rolland 


13 May 1926 

Dear Mr. Rolland, 

Thank you very much for your letter and invitation. 
My wife greatly regrets that her doctor will not allow her 
to go out of Geneva, but she hopes a few weeks later to 
call on you and your sister. However, I shall be delighted 
to see you next week. I plan to go to the Villa Olga by 
train on Thursday the 20th May, and I hope to reach vour 
house at about 2-30. 

You are right, it is my little daughter, Indira, who 
studies at the International School here. I am glad to 
hear that her teacher, Miss Hartoch, is a friend of yours. 
Indira may come along with me to your house, as she 
has no school on Thursdays. 

I have ventured to write to you in French though I 
am afraid there are many mistakes in the letter. I apolo- 
gize for these. 

"With best wishes, 

Jawaharlal Nehru 

72. Extract from Romain Rolland’ s Diary 

20 May -Visited by the Indian Jawaharlal Nehru 
and his little seven-year-old daughter Indira. He is one 
of Gandhi’s main disciples, and has come to Switzerland 
for the health of his wife, who is suffering from tuberculosis. 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

He is the son of Motilal Nehru, one of the eminent 
personalities in the Swarajist party. 

.... He says that his father, a friend of Gandhi, is 
opposite to him by nature in every respect. Gandhi is of a 
race (and class) inclined to timidity (his autobiography 
reveals how much heroic discipline he needed to force his 
nature), very gentle, very strict from the religious point of 
view, imbued with Jainism and a pure Hinduist. Motilal 
Nehru is of a race constantly in contact with Muslim and 
Persian elements, forceful and extremely combative. During 
Gandhi’s imprisonment it was he who assumed the leader- 
ship of the Swarajist party, demanding participation in the 
Councils. He was three times condemned to imprisonment. 
He says that Gandhi still enjoys the same moral authority 
over the people of India, but has lost almost all his political 
authority among the Indian elite. He is quite pessimistic 
about the Hindu-Muslim division, which is favoured by the 
British Government and the civil servants who feel they 
need the government’s support. But these agitations are 
uncommon outside the towns; in the rural areas which in- 
clude 80 % of the people of India, Hindus and Muslims 
live on good terms with each other. But it must be admit- 
ted that no lofty figure of moral or religious authority in. 
the Muslim party plays any pacifying role analogous to- 
Gandhi’s among his fellow-believers. 

73. Gandhi to Devdas Gandhi 

Thursday , 27 May 1926' 

.... I have not yet been able to decide about the 
trip to Europe. At present I am waiting for a letter or 
telegram from Rolland. Raja is of the view that if I 
go, I must take you with me. Would you like to go? . . . 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


74. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

31 May 1926 . -Visited by Lajpat Rai. . . . This old 
friend of Gandhi is the least Gandhian of men; combative 
to his very core. And a Hindu nationalist (intelligently, but 
with passion and intransigence). 

75. Extract from Romain RoUand’s Diary 

21-29 June 1926 (Villeneuve) .-Visited by Rabindra- 
nath Tagore. . . . He speaks of his differences (of thought) 
with Mahatmaji (Gandhi). He enjoys dwelling on his 
political errors. He shows that in supporting the Indian 
Muslims as he did in the Khilafat affair Gandhi was not 
working, as he hoped, for the unity of India, but for the 
pride and force of Islam, factors which are at present 
emerging in violent Hindu-Muslim disturbances of which 
the latter, cunningly supported by the British Government, 
are the instigators. 

.... Tagore also returns to his old quarrel with Mahat- 
maji about Gandhi’s ban on the use of foreign cloth as 
“impure” : for it is by these religious reasons alone — Tagore 
calls them “idolatrous” — that the Indian people can be 
touched; they remain unmoved by reasons of reason and 
economics. Tagore asked Gandhi: 

“Do you yourself really believe there are ‘impure’ ob- 
jects?” — Gandhi avoided a direct reply (as he often does); 
but he said he believed in idolatry for the people of India. 
To which Tagore replies that this means he believes that 
the Indian people need lies, and if the people need lies, they 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

have no right to liberty; it legitimizes English domination. 
In their latest conversations, Tagore tried to make Gandhi 
say what his hopes were for India; Gandhi, always very 
reserved, said he expected a lot from English generosity in 
the near future. Thus he hoped that England would grant 
India autonomy within the framework of the Empire — in 
the style of the Dominions. 

. . . . T. sees the present and the future of his people 
in a most discouraged light. There is no link between the 
divided multitudes; no common thought possible between 
this sprinkling of races, mingled together all over the coun- 
try but unable to fuse into a unity. Any idea, like Mahat- 
maji’s, which tries to form them into a coalition is forced 
to adapt itself to their mentality, and such compromises 
shatter it and take away its impetus. Tagore sees a uni- 
versal symbol in the tragedy of Hamlet: the drama of a great 
idealist wanting to do his duty by means of a criminal 
action, who is ruined as soon as he dabbles in crime, even 
in intention; with his integrity, he has lost his force and 
his reasons for existence. This, Tagore says (in his eyes, 
at any rate), is the drama of Gandhi. Ever since the com- 
promise which, during the Great War, led him to recruit 
soldiers for England, it has been a story of moral collapse 
(Tagore thinks). He honestly thought that in this way he 
could achieve his great object, the liberation of his people; 
but in vain. The same happened when he fixed precise and 
early dates for the miraculous accomplishment of the grand 
design. This involved him in almost idolatrous means of 
suggestion which horrified Tagore; he was shocked to see the 
best, the most sensible men of his people swept aside ins- 
tantly by this contagious credulity. Sarat Chandra Chat- 
terjee, whom he sees as the greatest living Bengali artist and 
a man of high conscience, was eagerly awaiting the miracu- 
lous date, and he refused to argue about the matter with 
Tagore because, he said, it was a bad thing even to doubt. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


The date passed and nothing happened; and the result was 
bankruptcy. Tagore says that Gandhi and Gandhism today 
are paying the penalty for these infringements of the spirit 
of truth; whilst he, the Poet, who always refused to share 
in the contagion and was the most hated and rejected man 
in India, is now reaping the rewards of his intransigence. (I 
am not stating my personal observations, and but for a few 
exceptions I am noting only those of Tagore.) I try to re- 
act against his discouragement with his people. 

.... What intractable tragedy there is in these amal- 
gams of juxtaposed races which cannot communicates In 
Bengal alone, around Santiniketan, there co-exist non- 
Indian races, prehistoric Indian races in a primitive state, 
Dravidians, Aryans, Mongols and Negroids. And if Gan- 
dhi has firmly fought against the crime of “untouchability”, 
he has never sought to breach caste divisions (this is another 
of the points for which Tagore finds it hard to forgive 
him). No doubt for Gandhi this is a question of choosing 
the right moment. At present he wants to solve the political 
problem, which is relatively easy. He does not want to 
tackle the infinitely more complex and dangerous social 
problem yet. But, says Tagore, how can one solve the poli- 
tical problem without first solving the social problem? It's 
like building one’s house on the sand. 

76. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

29 June 1926—1 sent telegrams to Georges Duhamel and 
Emil Roniger, inviting them to come. Both men arrive, 
one from Paris, the other from Rheinfelden, at about the 
same time. ... I take them to Tagore. 

.... I say how moved I have been by Tagore’s por- 
trayal of the even more anguished distress of the idealists 
of India and the appeal he has given me to pass on to the 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

idealists of Europe. We must come together; it is with this 
in mind that Emil Roniger and I have conceived the idea of 
an international “House of Friendship”. 

.... I also take the initiative in suggesting that we 
might like to devote the next number of the Eurasische 
Berichte to Tagore’s thought and what it represents in India 
in face of Gandhi’s thought; to these two opposed styles of 
action and to what has been learned from these last few 
years in India, of such serious significance for the whole 
world; a situation in which independent thought in face 
of Gandhist non-participation has found itself facing the 
same problems as European free thought in face of national- 
ism. For here we have a tragic example of the despotic 
fanaticism into which, in practice, even the loftiest and 
purest religious thought can develop. Tagore draws away 
from this. He says he would find it morally repugnant to 
expose these conflicts to the eyes of the world at the present 
moment. He personally has been too much bound up with 
it. But in our own discreet little circle of trusted friends he 
tells the story of them at some length. Here again, his bit- 
terness against Gandhi soon shows through. He presents 
him as a prodigiously interesting subject for an artist to 
study, extremely complex, a mixture of grandeur and 
pettiness, a lofty political personality, but too political for his 
taste, and thereby leaving a stain on his moral and religious 
notions. He dwells on his variations and contradictions, 
the compromises he has accepted, and that sort of secret 
bad faith which makes him prove to himself by sophistries 
that the decisions he takes are those demanded by virtue 
and the divine law even when the contrary is true and he 
must be aware of the fact. (Anyway this is characteristic 
of the Hindu mind, passionately keen on sophisticated 
legal arguments and using them to prove to themselves that 
their duty is identical with what they want to do.) He re- 
turns to a number of complaints against Gandhi which he 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


has already voiced to me, and at the end, to avoid giving 
an impression of impartiality, he praises highly Mahatma- 
ji’s heroic virtues. We get the impression (Duhamel more 
sharply than the rest of us) that in this opposition between 
Tagore and Gandhi there are many feelings mixed together 
— and perhaps even more feelings than there are objective 
reasons. Tagore, Gandhi: two races of men and two 
classes (the aristocrat, the prince — and the popular guru), 
the duel being between the prophet of religious and poli- 
tical action who scorns and debases intellectual values be- 
fore the divine Word and moral values — and the supreme 
Artist, who lives in the firmament of his intellectual dream- 
world. Duhamel adds: Who can say that Tagore’s political 
and social attitudes have not been commanded precisely 
by a reaction against those of Gandhi — and if Gandhi had 
not existed, or were to vanish from the scene, his place would 
not be taken over to a certain extent by Tagore? 

Tagore then resumed his portrayal of the social and 
political poverty of India, oppressed and vilified by the 
European conqueror. 

77. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

7 July 1926 .-(Did I note that I suggested to the “ Christian 
young men ”, who had invited Gandhi to their international 
congress about to take place in Helsinki that they might 
give an address to Gandhi and a questionnaire to the great 
Indian Christian, K. T. Paul, and through him stimulate 
Gandhi into sending an apostolic epistle to the Christian 
unions of the young people of Europe?) 

78. Madeleine Slade to Romain Holland 

Satyagraha Ashram , 


Monday, 26 July 1926 

My dear Father, 

For many weeks I have had the intention of writing 
to thank you for your beautiful letter! But there was never 
a moment — you can understand, can’t you, and excuse me! 

What you say regarding the impression made by the 
autobiography in Europe is very interesting. Perhaps Bapu 
will find active and faithful disciples over there, but will 
they understand his teaching to the full ? 

As you say they are the “Soldiers of God”, but in their 
zeal do they not completely change (as in Christianity) 
the spirit of the new faith? Consequently I feel there is a 
danger in this occidental enthusiasm, if not well guided. 
And it is exactly my occidental father who can guide this 
movement. That is just why I wish so much that he should 
meet my oriental father and have long, long talks with 
him. But it is not simply a matter of talking — one must live 
near him for some weeks, because with Bapu it is his 
life and acts (from the most important to the smallest) that 
speak more than words (that are more eloquent than words) . 

I am always wondering about your health. Will you 
come here — shall we go to Europe? (It is possible that Bapu 
would take me with him another time.) 

How happy I should be to see my dear Father again — 
but when? where? 

Your daughter embraces you with all her heart. 


Letters, Diary Extracts 


79. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

5 September 1926.-V isited by K. T. Paul, the great Indian 
Christian, accompanied by A. Senaud, one of the young 
Genevan organizers of the Universal Committee of the Uni- 
versal Alliance of Young People’s Christian Unions. 

He has recently been to the international congress of 
the Young Men’s Christian Association in Helsinki. It was 
hoped that Gandhi might be there, and he did indeed 
think about it, but his duties to India kept him in Asia. Then 
we thought of the idea of entrusting K. T. Paul with the 
mission of setting before Gandhi the questions and the doubts 
of the “Christian youth” of Europe and asking him to give 
his reply. ... At once I set before him the tragic pro- 
blem which weighs on my mind: 

In every religion, particularly the Christian religion, 
there is an opposition between the essence of the doctrine: 
the “Metanoia” of the Gospels, the rejection or the 
ruin of all worldly values (“Leave everything and follow 
Me!”) — and attempts to adapt the doctrine to life in so- 
ciety and practical action. Is it possible to reconcile them, 
and how? The present world presents us with an intimidat- 
ing array of evidence of the hypocrisy to which such 
attempts lead. Just recently I have received two books from 
an Italian professor in the University of Rome, Luigi Tra- 
felli, showing the confusion reigning among truly religious 
minds. What are we to think of an age in which the 
centenary celebrations in honour of St. Francis of Assisi 
are patronized by a man like Mussolini! And the Roman 
Church, far from protesting at it, finds it suits them very 
well. What would Gandhi think of that? What advice 


Remain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

would he give to young men faced with the alternative either 
of following the voice of Christ (which means certain sacri- 
fice) or lying in the sight of Christ in order to live at 
peace with society? 

First of all, there is the question of war (which may 
be raised at any moment). What should we say to young 
people? “Refuse to bear arms, in other words sacrifice 
yourselves!” Or “Give in, try to come to terms with the 

War is not the only problem. The oppression of men’s 
consciences in Italy by the despotic State creates a crying 
need for moral help and advice. Should men feign obedience 
and wait for the tyranny to pass (but this is prostitution, 
for lies degrade the soul) or should they stand up to all 
the rigours of persecution? 

I provide striking examples of the situation, which 
seem to strike both men (who seem to know nothing 
about it, the Genevan no more than the Indian) . But answer 
comes there none. K. T. Paul does not seem to see the 
universal side of such problems, and doubts even whether 
Gandhi sees it. He looks at everything from an Indian 
point of view. How strangely powerless is Christianity (or 
Hinduism) ready to lose interest in such crises of human 
conscience, without seeing that the form alone changes 
and that the substance is universal! For in the last ana- 
lysis, the problem is the antagonism between the individual 
religious Conscience, the Christ within man — and the State. 

All these great believers, even the best of them, have 
not a sufficiently universal soul. They are more aware of 
the differences, which are of man, than of the Unity, which 
is of God. 

The only conclusion we reach is that K. T. Paul will 
invite Andrews to come and study these European problems 
and then lay them before Gandhi. For Andrews is an 
intermediary between Europe and Asia, as he is between 

Letters, Diary Extracts 

6 » 

Tagore and Gandhi. But what it means is that K. T. Paul 
is dodging the issue. 

Afterwards, the conversation ranges over many sub- 
jects. (K. T. Paul speaks only English; my sister and Senaud 
serve as interpreters.) 

80. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

11 September 1926.-V isited by Ramananda Chatterjee, 
Kali das Nag’s father-in-law and director of the Modern 
Review. . . . He is an intimate friend of Tagore and was 
present at his famous conversations with Gandhi in Santi- 
niketan. He says that Gandhi is charming and mischie- 
vous in conversation, with a good sense of humour. 

81. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

13 September 192 6. -Visited by the American Buchanan, 
who has recently seen Gandhi, and has travelled all over Asia. 

82. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
26 September 1926 

Dear Friend, 

I find, at last, an hour for conversing with you, and, 
through you, with your Bapu. 

I am replying to your letter of the end of July, and I 
return to my regrets that Gandhi could not take part in the 
conference for Christian Young Men at Helsingfors. Those 
regrets are accentuated since my meeting with several of 
these young men and with K. T. Paul. 


jRomain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

The question is in no way, as you think, one of the 
fashionable enthusiasm for Gandhi’s person, or a super- 
ficial infatuation for the doctrine of Gandhi. No, there is 
not even a question of it, — the fact more unexpected, but 
indisputable, is that the person, the action, the life and the 
faith of Gandhi have been the strongest stimulant for Euro- 
pean Christianity. Neither you nor Gandhi could have 
expected it; and it was scarcely the goal for which the 
Mahatma was searching. But great actions have unexpected 
repercussions; and often their effect equals or surpasses in 
importance the effect which had been expected and wished 
by the man of God. Because, after all, it is not he who 
acts; it is, by his means, God. 

The fact is then that Young Christian Europe has seen 
in Gandhi the purest Christian (without knowing it) of 
today, — the man who, over and above all the priests and 
pastors, resumes the direct tradition with the spirit of the 

That has he found himself in possession of immense 
influence over these young Christians, for interpreting to 
them their own doctrine, and for showing them the path 
in an hour of agonizing uncertainties and doubts. 

Once more, it may be, that Gandhi did not wish this. 
But once more, another greater than he willed it for him. 
And ne has not the right to escape from it in the future. 
Because, however imperious may be his Indian task, the 
human task envelops it and surpasses it. And whatever 
may be his personal faith in Hinduism, — the most ardent 
fire, the most divine of all faith, the eternal is that which 
feels in common with all, and not that which differentiated. 
God is in the centre of the Bush. And he who hears Him 
speak, and repeats what He says, speaks for all. 

Now, the Christianity of today is consumed by the 
anguish of a problem of conscience and faith that not one 
of her chiefs or official representatives has power to solve. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


I find acute expression of this in the works of a professor of 
the University of Rome which I have just received: Ubi Chris- 
tianas? and Dothrine di Cristo, by Luigi Trafelli. The author, 
who is undoubtedly a tortured conscience, starts with the 
declaration that the “Zvletanoia” or “evangelical conver- 
sion” where the preaching of Jesus begins, is an absolute 
overthrow and the complete transformation of the values, 
which, in the normal life of men, are the most apprecia- 
ted. It is necessary to strip “the old man” and to redress 
“the new man”, who will not be able to enter into the 
Kingdom of God, if he does not sacrifice all half-duties to 
the whole duty, and all compromises of the world to the 
will of perfection. “Be thou then perfect as is thy Father 
in Heaven.” No concessions to the world: “Leave all and 
follow Me.” 

Now, after having examined the perpetual conflicts of 
this order with the worldly order, and all the “combinations” 
imagined by the Church and the pseudo-believers, for recon- 
ciling them, Luigi Trafelli asks himself the mournful ques- 
tion: “Do Christians still exist?” and concludes: “No, 
they exist no more”, — and he admits himself: “I am not 
a Christian.” — but adds: “At least, I have not got the 
hypocrisy to call myself Christian, as do the churches, while 
betraying the express word of Christ.” 

This question is made particularly tragic owing to the 
social crisis, which is passing over Europe, — the world — 
(and especially the country which is the seat of official 
Catholicism, Italy). 

At the present hour, the power of the State in Italy 
has reached a sovereign ty which is veritably demoniac. 
Everything is sacrificed to it, religious conscience is trampled 
under its feet. The individual soul is annihilated. He 
who resists the “Public Will” (translated by one or two 
leaders who incarnate it) is, or will be, crushed. A Mus- 
solini with formidable cynicism displays this doctrine, 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

accepted by millions of Italians, which will certainly spread 
before long in Europe and America, (above all in America). 

Now, what are the guides of religious conscience doing 
at this hour? They dare not take the responsibility of the 
nameless sufferings into which they would throw those who 
ask their advice, by saying to them, — “Resist! Be persecuted!” 
— the worst the most mediocre think of their tran- 
quillity. The best remind themselves of old Tolstoy who 
was in despair at seeing his disciples persecuted while he 
could not succeed in getting persecuted himself: because 
power is too cunning not to treat with care the men who 
are in broad daylight, and severely the obscure. The result 
is that all search for, and teach, compromises — the inner 
lie; and the soul degrades itself. 

The young men realize this, they listen for the voice of 
the Gospel which will say to them: “The Duty is there.” The 
voice speaks not. They are left. It is for this reason that 
so many young Christians look towards Gandhi. 

.... You say to me, my friend, that it is for me to 
reply to them. . . . No. I cannot. It is necessary to see 
me as I am, and not lend to me a faith, thoughts, a mission 
that I have not got. 

I am not a Christian, I am not a Gandhist, I am not 
a believer in a revealed religion. I am a man of the 
Occident who, in all love and in all sincerity, searches for 
the truth. That which I strive to teach to myself is for 
others, it is never to belie one’s own thoughts, never to 
say that one knows that which one only “believes” or hopes, 
to say exactly that which one knows, — nothing more, — 
and, be it that one understands or does not understand, 
to conserve intact energy and love. The word of the 
introduction to The Life of Michel Angelo : “See men and 
life as they are, — and as they are, love them and act. 
That is my role. And it is also to discover and make known 
to others all the sources of strength, all the hearths of light. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


which, exist in the world. The heroes and the saints. I say: 
“Take, and drink!” 

But my role is not to speak in the name of a religion 
which I have not. Let those speak who have! 

.... We have lately had a visit from a gay American 
who is making an express tour of all the celebrated men of 
the globe; five minutes for each one. His name is Bucha- 
nan, and he has seen Gandhi at the beginning of the 
year. He says that Gandhi said, regarding my book on him 
— “It is literature” (“ C’est de la letter attire”') — No, it is not 
altogether just. It should be said: “It is love” (“ C’est de 
V amour”). Everybody knows that love does not see very 
exactly. My book must often be erroneous. How could it 
be otherwise ? I knew nothing of the atmosphere of India, 
or of the language. I made the tour de force in six to 
twelve months, from imagination, after the books I had 
read, all a great life, and that of a people who were far 
aw r ay and unknown to me. It was very audacious! But 
love did not give me the liberty not to imagine, and — that 
which I loved, my joy, my enthusiasm, — not to share 
them with my brothers of Europe. In that, I believe I have 
succeeded. If I have sometimes, often, mispresented the 
character and the thought of Gandhi, may he pardon me ! — 
I have often asked myself what Christ would have thought 
of the narratives of his disciples ! — In any case, true or false, 
I have not written for “literature”. (The litterateurs scarcely 
consider me as one of them); I wrote to relieve my heart. 

.... We are pretty well, in spite of the fact that I 
have just been laid up for a fortnight with intestinal fever. 
Madeleine has spent a little time in Savoie and w T e have had 
beautiful walks together. Since August the splendour of the 
summer has been marvellous. 

I am not surprised that you feel yourself “at home” in 
India. Did not you tell us that you have gipsy blood? 
And you have seen that, according to the latest discoveries 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

the gipsies unquestionably had India for their cradle. You 
return to your point of departure. 

Madeleine and I send you our most affectionate 
thoughts. To Bapu my filial respect, — in spite of the fact 
that I am corporally older than him. But the soul belongs 
to other cycles of time than the body. 


Romain Rolland 

83. Extract from Romain Rolland’ s Diary 

September 1926.-1 write to Gandhi, through his favou- 
rite disciple Miss Slade, to tell him what the young men 
of Europe were expecting from his visit, and of the indirect 
but certain effect he has on the religious feelings of Chris- 
tian youth who see in him the purest interpreter of Christ. 
I urge him not to sacrifice his universal duty to his Indian 
task. (27 September) 

84. Extract from Romain Rolland’ s Diary 

4 October 1926.-V isited by Dhan Gopal Mukerji. . . . 
Gandhi has undergone the spiritual fascination of Rama- 
krishna; he knows nothing more divine than the story of 
his life. We discuss with Mukerji the reasons why Gandhi 
has formally forbidden him to write his life story (as 
Mukerji wanted to do). I believe (and Mukerji is struck 
by what I say) that Gandhi is aware that he is not a 
divine being (the essence of which he recognizes in Rama- 
krishna) and he is wounded by his admirers’ zealous at- 
tempts to show that he is. This he stubbornly refuses to 
accept; he is determined to write his own life story in order 
to lower himself, to prove he is an ordinary man with 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


nothing divine in him. This makes him a saint, whether he 
likes it or not. (But it is a long way from a saint to a 
god — or a demigod! The saint belongs to our humanity. 
The god is on another level.) 

85. Extract from Remain Holland’s Diary 

13 October 192 6. -Visited by Jawaharlal Nehru, accom- 
panied this time by his brother-in-law R. S. Pandit and the 
latter’s wife, Vijayalakshmi Pandit. . . . 

.... Before they left India, Nehru and Pandit saw 
Gandhi and Miss Slade. They say that Miss Slade’s arrival 
has been good for Gandhi’s health; she alone has been 
able to make him look after himself, and he takes from 
her hands remedies which he would otherwise have refused. 

86. Madeleine Slade to Romain Holland 

Satyagraha Ashram , 


28 October 1926 

My dear Father, 

What a letter you have sent us ! Bapu has read it (I gave 
him a written translation). He said very little. But he was 
encircled with that light which comes very rarely, and 
only when he is deeply moved. 

With this letter I send you his reply. 

I have not the slightest doubt that he will go to 
Europe the moment he receives a true, natural and sponta- 
neous invitation. 

I believe, at the bottom of his heart, he wishes it 
greatly. When he obeyed the "small voice”, and refused 
to go to Helsingfors, he said to me: “I see now that the 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

wish was there . 55 But for him to wish — his own wish — is not 
enough if the voice does not speak. If Europe sends him 
the true invitation, the voice will surely speak! . . . 

87. Gandhi to Romain Rolland 1 


29 October 1926 

Dear Friend, 

Mira has given me a good translation of your beauti- 
ful letter. I think I understand and appreciate its spirit 
fully. I would have gladly gone to Helsingfors, had I not 
felt that the invitation was prompted and not spontaneous. 
There were other reasons. I waited for the call from 
within; it did not come. I give you my assurance that I 
shall not resist it when it comes. 

I fear my estimate of your book was not quite cor- 
rectly reproduced. I knew that you wrote from the deep- 
est conviction. 

One thing more which I should like to have off my 
mind. In the album presented to you, I am among the 
contributors. The Poet 2 has sent me the message that my 
description of you as my self-chosen advertiser has given 
you offence. I can only give you my assurance that the ex- 
pression was used as a mark of my affection for you and 
my unworthiness to deserve your attention. It may be 
difficult for the man in the street to believe, but cannot 
be for you, when I say that I simply do not understand the- 

1 The reference is to the Liber Amicorum Romain Rolland, a collection 
of tributes, published in 1926 (for Romain Rolland’s sixtieth birthday) 
by Emil Roniger of Zurich. 

2 Rabindranath Tagore 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


fuss that is made about my qualities. And I have no false 
modesty about me. 

I do expect to meet you in the flesh some day and 
that in the best of health. 

With all good wishes, 

Yours sincerely, 
M. K. Gandhi 

88. Gandhi to Emil Roniger 1 

I have purposely refrained from acknowledging your 
letter all these long weeks, not because there was any un- 
willingness on my part to contribute my humble quota to 
the tribute that will be paid by many persons all the world 
over to the humanitarian work of Romain Rolland. My 
difficulty was my unfitness to find myself among those men 
of letters whose contributions you have invited. This is 
no mock modesty, but my inmost feeling. I am unfit, also, 
because, I confess, I knew practically nothing about our 
great and good friend before he imposed upon himself the 
task of becoming my self-chosen advertiser. And you will 
be perhaps amazed to know that now, too, my acquain- 
tance with him is confined to a very cursory glance at that 
booklet regarding myself. The work before me leaves me 
no time to read the things I w r ou!d like to. I have, there- 
fore, even now, not been able to read any of his great 
works. All, therefore, I know about Romain Rolland is 
what I have learned from those who have come into per- 
sonal contact with him. Perhaps it is better that I know 
him through the living touch of mutual friends. They have 

1 From a letter to Mr. Emil Roniger published in the Liber Amicorum 
Romain Rolland, Zurich, 1926. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

enabled me to understand and appreciate the deep huma- 
nity of all his acts in every sphere of life. The world is 
the richer for his life and work. May he be long spared to 
continue the noble mission of spreading peace among 

M. K. Gandhi 

89. Romain Rolland to Gandhi 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
14 November 1926 

My dear Friend, 

I have received your letter sent to me by Mira, and 
I thank you for it most affectionately, but I don’t under- 
stand at all what “the Poet” could have said to you. I have 
never said or written anything to Tagore about the lines 
from your pen published in the Liber Amicorum. I didn’t dis- 
cuss them with anyone in the Poet’s entourage, and if I 
had, it would only have been to express the joy they gave 
me and the gratitude I felt for them. How could I pos- 
sibly have thought of complaining of a judgment like yours? 
I regard it as one of the honours of my life to have been 
able to put my efforts to your service and to spread your 
thought in the world. I am proud of my role as “free 
servant”, far from protesting against it! It grieves me to 
see such thoughts attributed to me. 

I can’t explain it at all; it must be one of those tri- 
vial pieces of hearsay which are born for no good reason, 
grow as they circulate and cause so many misunderstandings. 
This one must be entirely effaced, as it is quite baseless. 

My dear friend, I love and venerate you. Be what 
you have always been, both to me and to others, to the 
end of your life : a totally straightforward and sincere man, 
not seeking to please or to make compliments and not 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


saying a word more than he thinks I All self-interest fades 

in your presence, for you set the example, and the writer 

that I am yields to the man of action that vou are. 

✓ * 

Please believe in my profound respect and faithful 

Romain Rolland 

90. Remain Rolland to Madeleine Slade 

14 Xcvember 1926 

Dear Mira, 

Gandhi says in his letter: 

“The Poet has sent me the message that my des- 
cription of you as my self-chosen advertiser has given vou 
offence” (!) 

I have never said anything to the “Poet” (I suppose 
he means Tagore?), nor to any of the Poet’s friends, 
on the subject of what Gandhi wrote about me, and it would 
never have occurred to me to be “upset” by what he 
w r rote. On the contrary, I regard it as an honour and I’m 
most touched by it. 

What could have given Gandhi that idea? I can’t 
believe that Tagore would have spoken in my name. It 
seems more likely that he made his own interpretation (in 
which case he completely misinterpreted my feelings), and 
no doubt one of his entourage reported Tagore’s judgment 
to Gandhi in a distorted version, what is the sort of thing 
that happens when people’s words are passed on by inter- 

In any case, it’s a complete misunderstanding of me! 
I’m writing to tell Gandhi that I’m proud to be of service 
to him and to propagate his words of life in Europe, and 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

I hope he never thinks I have ulterior motives of self- 
interest! When a man is fortunate enough to be confron- 
ted with the Spirit of God, he’s a wretch indeed if he 
thinks of himself and his own vanity! 

My dear Mira, you know me, but Gandhi does not. He 
knows the artistic fraternity and he’s suspicious of them — 
but no more so than a man like me who has always lived 
in isolation, even at the time of my greatest successes ! Artists 
are priests who trade or play games with the God within 
them. They say: “Life is serious, art is a game”, or else: 
“Life and art are both games.” But for me everything is 
serious and nothing is a game; and if I’ve devoted my life 
to art, it’s because it keeps me in perpetual contact with 
the divinity. I try to pass on to other men that myste- 
rious touch of the Eternal, which is just under the surface 
of all the forms of life. 

Affectionately yours, 
Romain Rolland 

We were 'grieved to hear you were unwell. But we 
rejoice with you for the return of the fine weather. 

91. Gandhi to Madeleine Slade 

Monday , 6 December 1926 

.... Here is Rolland’s letter. ‘Sparrow* has trans- 
lated it for me. Here it is. If you think it is accurate, 
you need not translate anew for me. . . . 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


92. Gandhi to Madeleine Slade 


11 December 1926 {Post Mark ) 

.... I was uncertain about the correctness of the 
passage in Roiland’s letter which you have now corrected. 
It reads perfectly intelligible now. Please do not return 
the original. File it among your papers. . . . 

93. Madeleine Rolland to Jawaharlai Nehru 

Villa Olga, Villeneuve 


13 March 1927 

Dear Mr. Nehru, 

I am sending you enclosed the first draft of our pro- 
gramme for the Summer School of 1927. May I ask you a 
great favour? Can you and will you take a share in our 
work? I know the subject will be of interest to you. My 
friend and co-worker, Gabrielle Duchene, has met you at 
the Brussels Conference. And I think our meeting may 
have some real influence on future developments as all 
those who will come to it are (I hope) lovers of peace and 
truth and ready to learn and teach what is right. If you 
are still in Switzerland, it may not be too much trouble 
for you to come to Vaud and talk to us and with us. But 
shall you be still here in August-September? It would be 
such a disappointment to hear that you are to leave Europe 
before the end of the summer. I have asked, through a friend 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

in India, whether Mrs. Sarojini Naidu did not intend to 
come to Europe and, in that case, whether she would be 
willing to help us. But I have not yet got any answer. 

I hope Mrs. Nehru’s health has benefited from your 
stay at Montana. And how is little Indira and your lovely 
sister we saw last summer? Shall you not be able to come 
to Villeneuve some day? My brother and I are going 
away for a few weeks at the end of March, but we shall 
be back by the middle of April. 

Sending you our best regards, dear Mr. Nehru, 

I am, 

Sincerely yours, 
Madeleine Rolland 

94. Madeleine Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru 

Villa Olga , Villeneuve 
17 March 1927 

Dear Mr. Nehru, 

It is a great disappointment to hear that you intend 
to sail for India so early! And I fear I am selfish enough 
to hope that something — not unpleasant, of course! — will 
happen to make you postpone your plans. 

I believe our Summer Conference (it is not really a 
Summer School this year) will have a far-reaching echo in 
the minds — hearts of — may be a few — but a chosen few, able 
to speak it in every country. If it is a success, we shall 
go on next year and study other aspects of that same com- 
plex problem which cannot be easily solved; we know it 
too well, but if approached in the right spirit of peace and 
truthfulness, may become less rankling and festering. And 
we had thought that you were the one to help us to rea- 
lize the Hindu problem and discuss it with our European 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


If you must go away before the Conference, do you 
see any Indian friend of yours who being in Europe could 
take your place and would be willing to lecture at Vaud? 

In any case I look forward to our meeting next month 
when you are at Montana. 

Believe me, dear Mr. Nehru, 

Sincerely yours, 
Madeleine Holland 

95. Remain Holland to D. B. Kalelkar 

Villeneuve Villa Olga 
17 March 1927 

.... National pride, in Europe, against which I have 
spent my life fighting, is such a terrible scourge that I see 
its shadow everywhere and wherever I see it showing itself 
I am on my guard. True, the situation is not at all the 
same in India and in Europe, but I know only too well 
with what rapidity this moral epidemic can spread, so that 
passing from a legitimate awareness of one’s personality, 
of one’s duties and legitimate rights it becomes a morbid 
hypertrophy of “I” — national or racial — trampling under- 
foot everyone else. Today it is a permanent danger to huma- 
nity. Watching it calls for the severe control and firm hand 
of great directors of the conscience of peoples, such as our 
master Gandhi and yourself. And since neither he nor you 
will be there for ever, you must train for the role of pilots 
those who will, after you are gone, command the ship. We 
are in the fierce tempest of the world. The helmsman cannot 
close his eyes even for a second. In your letter there is a 
profound thought which has become engraved in my 

“In fact no knowledge can ever be foreign. It is a 
thing of the Spirit.” 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

This utterance makes us brothers — sons of the same 
Father. All the differences of opinion between us are secon- 
dary. . . . 

96. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

March 1927 - Our friend Mira (Madeleine Slade), who 
is still, with unquenchable ardour, corresponding regularly 
from India with my sister and describing her experiences 
of religious life with Gandhi and his disciples, sends me a 
letter from D. B. Kalelkar (24 January, Sabarmati), who 
is one of Gandhi’s main disciples and the director of the 
Satyagraha Ashram. I was hard on him in my book on Gan- 
dhi; I had been shocked by his Gospel of Swadeshi, and de- 
nounced its monastic and nationalistic narrowness. Kalelkar, 
who was in prison when my book appeared, did not find 
out about it until quite a late date, and then his modesty, 
or rather his humility, dissuaded him from writing to me. 
It was Mira who finally persuaded him to do it, having 
come to esteem him personally. He finally made up his 
mind to it and he writes with touching moderation and 
gentleness. ... I reply to him (17 March), asking him to 
‘'forgive me my unjust criticisms of him”. I explain to him 
some of the reasons. 

97. Gandhi to Madeleine Slade 

13 April 1927 

.... Kaka has sent a copy of your translation of 
Rolland’s letter. The translation is very good indeed. The 
original could not be better. . . . 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


98. Romam Rolland to Madeleine Slade 


25 April 1927 

Dear Mira, 

My thoughts have been very much with you in the 
two great events which have recently touched you — one of 
which affects the whole world with you: — Gandhi’s sickness 
and the vows you have taken. 

I hope that by the time you receive this letter the force 
of Gandhi’s soul and the invisible Presence which animates 
him will have overcome the sickness. The mute and ardent 
prayer in our hearts holds him firmly to the earth, which 
needs him — more than ever at this hour. There’s no need 
for him to lavish his energies in speeches by the hundred, 
as he has been doing; it is an abuse of his spiritual wealth. 
Just the fact of his existence, the awareness that he exists, 
the fact that eyes arc turning from all parts of the world 
towards that magnetic needle which shows the road to 
God, — -just the distant radiance of his smile, the emanations 
of his great love, and very occasionally, the directives he gi\ es 
through his Young India to support and guide the world; 
let this at least be kept for us as long as possible! Mira 
my dear, please lay my most affectionate wishes at your 
Master’s feet! 

As to your vows, my daughter — now the daughter of 
one very much greater than I — I am happy to know that 
from now on you are in his powerful hands. Yes, you are 
right and I rejoice with you; you have discovered — or rather 
rediscovered — in his bosom your true place, your abode. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

your lost homeland. The exile on the face of the earth has 
returned home. Keep a little corner for me, a little guest 
room, where I can shelter my head sometimes when I am 
weary on the road! I shan’t make any noise. . . . 

My dear Mira, I join my loving prayer to yours, that 
the light which has entered into you may fill your whole 
being, make fertile your spirit and be shed from you upon 
all that surrounds you — which includes myself, although 
the seas separate us. 

Your fraternal friend, 
Romain Rolland 

Madeleine has told you of our little journey to Vienna, 
our pilgrimage to Beethoven. If Gandhi knew him, he 
would recognize in him our European Mahatma, our strong- 
est mediator between the life of the senses and eternal Life. 
And he would bless this music which perhaps, for us, is the 
highest form of prayer, a permanent communion with the 

99. Extract from Romain Rolland’ s Diary 

April 1927 — Gandhi gravely ill. For months he has been 
overtaxing himself, travelling all over India, making 8 or 
10 speeches per day to the multitudes. A fortnight ago he 
was on the point of an attack of hemiplegia, with one side 
of his body half paralysed. But his spiritual force seems 
to be gaining the upper hand. The next day he wrote to 
our friend Mira to reassure her. 

Very interesting correspondence between Miss Slade 
and my sister — her intimacy with Gandhi. She has recently 
taken her final vows in his presence, and is bathing in a 
sea of felicity. We have the feeling that in getting to know 
Gandhi and in embracing his faith, she is following her voca- 
tion which until then she had not known. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


100. Extract from Remain Ro Hand’s Diary 

1 May 1927 .— Visited by Jawaharlal Nehru, his wife, 
one of his sisters and his daughter Indira. . . . 

He seems to be breaking away from Gandhism and 
claims that the popular classes — workers and peasants — are 
also breaking away (though they still revere Gandhi) be- 
cause they see that Gandhi is doing next to nothing 
(Nehru says) to improve their material condition; he 
will hear nothing of class conflict, and preaches purity 
of life to the workers as a remedy to their poverty. (Nehru 
is rather too neglectful of the importance of the cottage 
industries which Gandhi is trying to restore in the villa- 
ges.) Nehru is particularly struck by the economic wret- 
chedness of the popular classes in India, and it seems that 
he is struck by it more and more the further away from India 
he lives. He says that conditions there are as bad as they 
were in England 60 years ago: all the vices of industrial- 
ism with none of the advantages. Note that this Indian 
industrialism is quite recent. Fifty years ago the English were 
opposed to the entry of any machine into India; they were 
even more hostile to mechanization in India than Gandhi 
is. It is in the last 40 years that the scourge has spread. 
At present it is particularly crushing in the Bombay area, 
where great spinning works have been built which, after 
the war, were giving 200 to 300 % profits to shareholders 
while their workers were dying of hunger, Also, a feeling 
of revolt is spreading; there are strikes everywhere, but 
quickly crushed, as the workers do not know how to orga- 
nize themselves. Communist propaganda is ineffectual from 
a doctrinal point of view; it merely acts in the general 


Rcsmain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

direction of revolution; and also because Russia is the country- 
in which agricultural conditions are closest to those of 
India. As far as I can judge, Nehru over the last two 
years has moved some distance away from the religious 
and moral side of Gandhi’s doctrine. 

101. Extract from Remain Holland’s Diary 

9 July 192 7 - Visited by Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose. 
He has been in Geneva (where he is taking part in the 
meetings of the International Committee for Intellectual 
Co-operation) . 

.... Bose knows Gandhi well, and respects and re- 
veres him. But he considers him too narrow-minded, too in- 
different or hostile to art and science, too lacking in these 
divine riches of the soul which are both natural and neces- 
sary. Bose, for his part, wants to stimulate among young 
people all the forces of spiritual creativity which form part 
— an essential part— of the divine plan for universal nature. 
Without this incessant surge of creation in the younger 
generation, nature becomes sluggish and sleepy, and risks 
petrification. A man must stay young to his last hour and 
remain in contact with youth. 

102. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ), Switzerland, 

Villa Olga 
10 December 1927 

My dear Friend, 

I’m sending you in the same post a registered packet 
containing a typed brochure in French, which no doubt 
neither you nor your master and friend will have time to 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


read; but all the same I should like to attract both your 
attentions to the facts which are accurately related there, 
for they are fine and noble. 

It’s the story of two French peasants from the Hautes- 
Alpes department — the brothers Theophile and Felix Ber- 
thallon — who in September 1914 refused to enrol in the 
army and, to avoid killing, took refuge in the barren and 
desolate mountain heights w r here they stayed thirteen years , 
until they were finally caught and brought to trial in 1927. 
But the military tribunal didn’t dare condemn them. 

What they endured stoically for those thirteen years 
without shelter among the rocks and the snow, with very 
little food (they refused animal food, as they respect all forms 
of life), and hunted by the people of their own village, — 
well, you can imagine it. They never weakened, and no 
feeling of bitterness or rancour ever entered their hearts. 
They drew their strength from their religious faith, from 
their old Bible, v r hich they read right through eighty times 
in those thirteen years. 

Their sisters, who stayed in the village and sympa- 
thized with them, suffered no less from the evil deeds of 
their fellow-creatures. One of the three died of fatigue and 
grief (she wore herself out trying to take food to them at 
night-time), and another of them ruined her health. 

But now their village which was set against them is 
proud of them; it doesn’t even remember the harm it may 
have done them. 

Conscientious objectors, as you know, are extremely 
rare in France and the Latin countries generally, where the 
religion of patriotism (and fear of public opinion) dominate 
everything, including the other religions, Catholic, Protes- 
tant or Jewish. This makes the heroic example of these 
proud and humble Berthallon brothers all the more remark- 
able. I think a note about them in Toung India would inte- 
rest Indian readers. It would show them that great truths 


Romain Holland and Gandhi s Correspondence 

and absolute devotion to the laws of the conscience can 
be found in all countries. 

I’m not asking for your news and I’m not giving you 
mine. My sister Madeleine shows me your correspondence, 
and I always have a share in what she writes to you. I 
am happy for you. I admire you and I send my fraternal 
greetings and ask for a blessing (that’s your job now) from 
the sister who shares in the labours and the holiness of the 
Master! Tell him of my faithful and affectionate respect. 

Your brother, 
Romain Rolland 

The brochure is to be published soon in Paris. (N.B. It’s 
not by me; it’s by Marianne Rauze, the woman who heads 
the movement of War Resisters in France.) 

103. Madeleine Slade to Madeleine Rolland 

(Originally written in English) 

Satyagraha Ashram, 


6 January 1928 

.... I wanted to write to “mon pere” to thank him 
for his letter and the most interesting account of the bro- 
thers Berthallon, but it is impossible at the moment to 
find time for writing in French. So I must send him a mes- 
sage through you. 

Regarding that account of the brothers Berthallon, I 
have read it through carefully and explained it to Bapu. 
It is very interesting, and the subject very beautiful. But 
we feel that it is not an out and out case of people suffering 
anything for the sake of not going to battle against their 
brother men. That was no doubt partly the reason for 
their marvellous endurance in the mountains, but it was 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


complicated by other issues. It strikes me that their ori- 
ginal and fundamental impulse was caused by devotion 
to their mountain valley and all that they had left there. 
To work it out, as Madame Rauze has done, as an exam- 
ple of pure War Resistance, seems to me to be a coloured 
interpretation, which she (all unconsciously} cannot resist 
using as fine material of Anti-War Propaganda. . . . 

104. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade 


21 January 1928 

My dear sister Mira, 

I was a little annoyed at what you wrote about the 
Berthallon brothers. If these simple peasants, untaught, 
with no guide, unaware of any doctrine and of everything 
happening in the world, led only by the light of their 
instinctive conscience and their naive faith in their old 
Bible, — if humble heroes such as these, unaware of their 
own heroism, still don’t satisfy the religious demands of the 
Master of absolute non-acceptation of violence, or those 
of his disciples, then there’s no hope of the great thoughts 
of Gandhi ever penetrating into the rest of the world and 
bearing fruit there. His intransigent purity risks shutting 
him up within the walls of an Indian Ashram. 

One has to enter into the spirit of other souls and judge 
them from their centre, not from one’s own. All souls are 
weak, inadequate and incomplete if they’re related to the 
divine model; their value lies only in the sincerity and firm- 
ness of their aspirations. If their errors and imperfections 
prevent us from seeing the living God in them, how can 
■ others see this God under our errors and our imperfections? 

Even Gandhi, whom I revere, has made mistakes. Shall 
I tell him how many times I’ve had the job of calming the 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

worries of his obscure Western disciples upset by his attitude 
during the 1914 war and his attempts to conciliate non- 
violence with his preaching inciting people to take part 
in the British Empire’s war! 

I believe that the greatest religious saying ever pronounc- 
ed is that which opens the Father’s arms to all men of good- 
will, “bonae voluntatis”. 

With fraternal affection, 

Romain Rolland 

Look after the health of your dear unruly patient! So 
many anxious hearts are praying for it in the West! 

P.S. What I say applies only to the Berthallon brothers 
themselves and the pure facts, — not to the rather mediocre 
and affected literary “ornamentations” added to them by 
the woman — admittedly sincere and courageous — who did 
the research. 

105. Extract from Romain Rolland’ s Diary 

January 1928 .- To my surprise, and rather discourag- 
ingly, Gandhi replies to me through his disciple Mirabehn 
(our friend Madeleine Slade), who passed on to him the 
story of the Berthallon brothers, that they did not seem to 
him sufficiently pure examples of true non-violence —because 
the basis of their refusal to join in the war was, in his opi- 
nion, their attachment to their native land and their moun- 

Still the same doctrinal narrowness, even among the 
best; it will end by reducing their universal Gospel to a 
strict sectarian regulation! 

I write to Mira (21 January). 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


106. Madeleine Slade to Romain Holland 

The Ashram , 


17 February 1928 

My dear — Brother (very well, brother, but honoured like 
a father), 

When, on reading your letter, I realized your distress, 
it deeply pained me! It is all my fault — I expressed myself 
badly in my letter to Madeleine. The hard judgment that 
you sense was far from our thoughts. As for myself, God 
knows how much I love the brave people of the Alps, and 
the story of the Berthallon brothers had touched me very 

But this time Bapu is waiting to you himself and he 
expresses himself in such clear language that I won’t add 
another word to the explanation. It expresses my feelings 

When I explained to Bapu the doings of these peasants, 
I gave him their history in a few words — I emphasized their 
good qualities, especially the fact that they did not take 
the life of a single creature. Then I translated word by 
word their testimony explaining very clearly the sense in 
which they used the word “faiblesse”. At the same time I 
explained my own point of view. 

Later, when Bapu is better (at present the doctors don’t 
allow any long conversations) I will give him the details of 
the brothers’ history. Bapu insists that I should translate 
into French his letter to you! I tried to get out of it, but 
he said, “No — I wish to see and sign the translation myself.” 
I know my translation will be full of mistakes as far as the 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

language goes, but I hope that the sense will tally pretty 
well with the original. 

And now as to the great question — the glorious hope. Will 
Bapu go to Europe this year? Will you and he at last 
meet in the flesh, as he puts it? The dream which I have 
treasured in my heart! 

Bapu says there are so many things to be considered 
that he cannot as yet see clearly. But personally I believe 
this time he is really tempted to accept the invitations be- 
cause they are very sympathetic. 

One is from: 

LTnternationale des Resistants contre la Guerre, 

(Congress at Sonntagsberg, Vienna; 27th to 30th July). 

And the other from: 

The World Youth Peace Congress, 1928, 

(Congress in Holland, 17th to 26th August). 

Would you tell us what you think of these invitations? 
Your advice would be the most valuable that we could have. 

If Bapu accepts these invitations it seems to me he 
would have to arrive in Europe in May, or at latest in the 
beginning of June. That way he could stay for a short time 
in Switzerland before the conferences. For his spirit, for his 
physical health, and in order that he should have a good 
understanding of present conditions in Europe, it would 
surely be best. 

You will send us your reply by return, won’t you? For 
it will already be the middle of March before this letter 
reaches you, and there is an idea (if his health permits) 
for Bapu to go to Singapore and the Federated Malay 
States for a tour during April and May. I should imagine that 
this could be postponed if the call from Europe should become 
imperative, because it is just a “Khadi Tour” — and there 
would be no conference which Bapu would have to attend. 

In the end may it be that all this trouble ends in great 


Letters, Diary Extracts 


Your little sister embraces you with all her heart. 


107. Gandhi to Romain Holland 

The Ashram , 


17 February 1928 

Dear Friend, 

Mira has translated your latest letter for me. 

My whole soul goes out to you in your grief, especial- 
ly because it comes over a letter which makes you suspect 
me of hardness of heart. I appreciate your desire to find 
me correct in all I do and think. I do indeed want to 
stand well with you, but I must be true to myself if I am 
to continue to deserve your warm friendship. 

Let me first tell you that Mira’s letter reflected her own 
views though they were found to coincide with mine. Nei- 
ther Mira, so far as I know her, nor I had the remo- 
test idea of judging those tw T o good peasants. Their action 
was undoubtedly one of heroism. What we had in our 
minds was the heroism of a war resister, and from the record 
sent by you and as it was interpreted to me by Mira, I 
missed that particular type of heroism which a war resister 
demonstrates in his own life. Joan of Arc was a heroine. So 
were Leonidas and Horatius. But the heroism in each case 
was of a different type, each noble and admirable in its 
own sphere. 

In the answers given by the peasants, I do not notice 
any definite repugnance to war as war and a determination 
to suffer to the utmost in their resistance to war. These pea- 
sant friends, if my recollection serves me right, are heroes 
representing and defending the simple rustic life. These 
heroes are no less precious than those of a militant war 

Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 


resister type. We want to treasure all these heroisms, but 
what I feel is that we will serve the heroes and the cause of 
Truth better if we treat each type separately. 

You have curiously raised the question of my partici- 
pation in the late war. It is a legitimate question. I had 
answered it in the last autobiographical chapter as if in 
anticipation of your question. Please read it carefully and 
tell me at your leisure what you think of the argument. 
I shall treasure your opinion. 

Lastly, I do want to reach perfection, but I recognize 
my limitations, and the recognition is becoming clearer day 
after day. Who knows in how many places I must be 
guilty of hardness of heart, and I should not be surprised if 
you have noticed want of charity in my writings in more 
places than one. I can only tell you that the lapses are there 
in spite of my prayerful effort to the contrary. I sup- 
pose it was not without reason that the early Christians 
considered Satan to be not merely an evil principle but 
Evil incarnate. He seems to dominate us in every walk of 
life and man’s mission is to overthrow him from power. 

This letter of yours to Mira makes me more and more 
anxious to see you in the flesh, and there is just a distant 
hope of my being able to do so this year, if I keep good 
health and if otherwise the inner voice guides me towards 

I am seriously considering two invitations, and the desire 
to meet you may precipitate my decision in favour of ac- 
cepting those invitations. 

Yours sincerely, 
M. K. Gandhi 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


108. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

25 February 1928 .- A letter from our friend Mirabehn, 
who sends news from the Ashram to my sister every week, 
tells us that Gandhi has had a serious relapse. (Her letter is 
dated the 10th.) Shortly after returning from a very tiring 
journey through India, and without taking a rest, he lost 
consciousness in Mirabehn 5 s arms; the doctors diagnosed 
arterial tension almost four times the normal. Yet he finds 
it hard to remain idle. In any case, he expects to die soon, 
— “in the month of March, on the anniversary of his im- 
prisonment,” — “unless a sort of miracle happens”. He 
does not rule out the possibility of this miracle, which, 
strangely, he links in his mind (without saying so) with the 
new diet he is stubbornly adopting, which excludes milk 
and all its derivatives. (He would like to reach the stage 
of living on nothing but fruits.) This, to him, has the value 
of a great experiment, and he would be glad if it could 
succeed; he would see it as a worthy conclusion to his exis- 
tence! I admit that I could have wished for another, more 
important, to the man’s career which was about to begin 
at this new hour, this new period in the history of huma- 
nity. But I ought never to forget that all the lives of the 
saints have ended, in some degree or other, with a bank- 
ruptcy which a biased legend has cast a veil over (cf. St. 
Francis), and that those which have served humanity best 
were the most tragic for the chosen man (cf. the Cross. This 
Gandhi will miss — as did Vivekananda) . 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

109. Romain Holland to Madeleine Slade 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
7 March 1928 

Dear Mira, 

Thank you so much for the admirable letters from 
Bapu and yourself. I’m delighted at the hope you give us 
that he may come to Europe, and I hasten to give you an 
answer on the matter. 

Certainly the invitations he has received are very at- 
tractive. The most attractive of the two is the one from 
the Internationale des Resistants contre la Guerre (Vienna, 
late July). Gandhi will find pure and enthusiastic youths 
in its ranks, men of limpid faith calmly prepared for every 
sacrifice. The other group, the World Youth Peace 
Congress, probably has more political elements and 
intellectual compromises mixed up’ in it, as do most of 
the associations calling themselves “pacifists”; but it 
certainly includes some interesting characters and much 

Now, keep me in touch (and in plenty of time!) with 
what you decide. My sister and I must be away from Swit- 
zerland in May; we have to go to France, Paris and the 
Nivernais. But we’ll be at Villeneuve in June. Tell us exact- 
ly when you’ll be arriving! (For I’m sure you’ll be on the 
trip. There’s no one better equipped than you to guide and 
organize Bapu on his pilgrimage across Europe.) But in 
Heaven’s name see that he doesn’t overtax his forces ! Don’t 
let him wear himself out in advance on this Khadi Tour to 
the Federated Malay States! In his state of health the jour- 
ney to Europe is bound to be very tiring, and if he wants 

Letters, Diary Extracts 

9 & 

to be able to bear it, see that he takes a little rest before- 

There will be much emotion among the young ideal- 
ists of Europe when it’s known that he’s coming! 

Best wishes and fraternal affection, 

Romain Rolland 

P.S. Please be good enough to give the enclosed letter to 
Bapu and read it to him, with my apologies for the haste 
in which I had to write it. 

I was indignant at some of the terms used in a recent 
interview with Dilip Kumar Roy which appeared in some 
Indian reviews, and I’ve written to them to protest. Dilip 
Kumar Roy isn’t at all a bad lad; he’s charming and 
intelligent, but he’s unboundedly frivolous. He takes no 
notes of what’s said to him, and he understands badly, 
then afterwards he often unintentionally relates quite the 
opposite of what’s said to him. 

110. Romain Rolland to Gandhi 


7 March 1928 

My dear Friend, 

I am touched by your kind reply and I thank you with 
all my heart. 

I understand what you say to me about the two pious 
Savoy peasants, and I bow to your reasons, though I fear that 
there are very few men and women — at least in Europe — in 
whom “resistance to war” will not always be mixed with 
other intellectual elements: for hardly any idea, even the 
most intense, can be found in man in a totally pure state; 
that is his weakness — and his wealth. 

I (or rather my sister) have read in Toung India of 
16 February your examination of the part you played in 


Romaxn Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

the 1914 war. Forgive me if I tell you that though I 
should dearly love to enter into your thoughts and approve 
•of them, I have not been able to do so ! 

I can very well admit — even with approval — that men 
who believe that their country, their homeland is sacred 
and that war is necessary and inevitable may take part in 
war. I have friends who did so, who did it for four years, 
who, when wounded, had no more sacred desire than to 
get better and return to the front ; no doubt they also killed. 
Not without sadness, but with affection, I can take and 
grasp their bloodstained hands; I embrace the poor 
unfortunate creatures — though they wouldn’t see themselves 
as such! 

I can understand, too, that men who do not believe 
in the nation and are horrified by war, but who cannot avoid 
it other than by getting themselves shot and have not enough 
moral force or faith to welcome this sacrifice which dis- 
honours them in the eyes of the mass of their fellow-citizens, 
should weaken and allow themselves to be enlisted. I pity 
them, I suffer with them, and I have no right to reproach 
them. Each man must act according to his strength. 

But for a man of great courage and absolute faith like 
yourself, who uncompromisingly condemns human blood- 
shed and national warfare, to take part in such activities 
— and out of choice, without being forced — , in that case, 
nothing in the world can make me either admit or even un- 
derstand it. And the reasons you cite (forgive me!) do not 
seem to me good ones. I could even go so far as to say 
that I should better understand your action without reasons 
than with the reasons you give! 

Let us look at them: 

You set out three alternatives: 

1. As a citizen (either willing or by accepted force) 
of the British Empire, enjoying its protection and aspiring 
to obtain from it Home Rule for your people within the 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Imperial framework, you feel yourself obliged to share in its 
trials and injustices as well as its sufferings, — even in its crimes* 
and you think that from this evil heroically accepted there 
may come a good: that of Imperial recognition of the inde- 
pendence of your people, which, once master of itself, may 
impose on the Empire in its turn, by spiritual force alone, 
the law of justice and humanity called Ahimsa. . . . 

Events have given you your answer — from the prac- 
tical point of view. If you consider only the results, this 
most frank opportunism has been of no use to you ; but even 
if it had led to practical success, to the recognition of your 
people’s independence, my friend, allow me to tell you quite 
bluntly that independence bought at that price, at the price 
of an accepted share in the bloody sacrifice of millions of 
men, would be a crime before God. 

2. Boycott of the war and the Empire, which you rightly 
judge impracticable. 

3. Individual civil disobedience, bringing with it the 
penalty of imprisonment. This you merely state, without 
dwelling on it. Why not? I don’t understand. It seems to- 
me the only one of the three alternatives which is morally 
acceptable, if not adequate. And in many other circum- 
stances you have set the example of accepting it — simply, 
without great gestures or phrases, without calculating the 
practical results — as the only way open to a conscience 
which has no accounts to render to anyone but God. Why 
not, then, have recourse to it at the hour of this “worst 
of crimes”, this mutual slaughter of peoples driven to the 
butchery by their bad shepherds. I don’t understand! And 
what grieves me is that an example like yours may and 
certainly will be exploited by our political masters as an 
acquiescence, as consent to the most loathsome of their 
crimes, which is the enlistment to help in their wars of sordid, 
interest, of the wretched human masses of Asia ajjdAfrica, 
which they exploit and use as cannon and ^^fafchine-gun. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

fodder, as a substance less precious than European flesh. 

I’m writing to you just as I feel and in haste, as Mira 
is waiting for my reply. I hope that one day soon we may 
better clarify our thought on this matter, and I rejoice in the 
dream that Europe — and my own eyes — may see you this year. 

I assure you of my respectful and profound affection, 

Romain Rolland 

111. Gandhi to Romain Rolland 

Satyagraha Ashram , 
Sab ar mati 
8 March 1928 

Dear Friend, 

Mr. Rajendra Prasad is one of the best among my 
co-workers. He is going to London to fulfil an old enga- 
gement. He cannot return to India without paying his 
respects to you. 

Sincerely yours, 
M. K. Gandhi 

112. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland 

The Ashram , 


16 March 1928 

My dear Brother, 

During these four weeks since writing to you, Bapu 
has been thinking a lot about the European visit, and now 
he wants me to explain to you what he finds in his heart. 
Up to now he cannot decide whether it would be right 
for him to leave India for a single moment before his work 
here is more firmly established. There are so many things 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


to be considered, and then, even if he should decide to 
leave, there might be both moral and physical hindrances 
at the last moment. 

As to the invitations, Bapu wishes me to explain that 
the question of the conferences is of secondary importance. 
He is influenced above all by the profound wish to go and 
meet you. The call has always been there, but now, since 
your last exchange of letters, it has become imperative. 

If the idea appeals to you, Bapu would like to spend 
some time near you so that you might understand each 
other to the bottom — that you might absorb each other — 
and that the slightest misunderstandings might be removed 
for good and all. 

He therefore wants your advice, and if you like the 
idea, he will try to arrive in Switzerland before the end of 

But before giving your advice, there is yet one more 
thing to be considered — if Bapu goes to Europe, he will, 
without doubt, receive invitations from all sides. He will 
not like to refuse the other countries; in fact he says that 
if he goes to Europe he wants to go more or less every- 
where. And he asks you whether you think that would be 
good, if in that way he could really aid your common 

Perhaps your reply to Bapu’s letter of 17-2-28 — which 
should be on its way at the moment — will give us an idea 
of your feelings on the subject, and that Bapu, when he 
reads it, will be able to come to a definite decision. But 
if you think it better, please send us a telegram on receipt 
of this letter. 

I have read this letter to Bapu (translating it into Eng- 
lish), and he approves of it. . . . 

And now there is not a moment to write anything 
more, but you can easily guess all that is in my heart with- 
out my putting it into words. 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Everything is in God’s hands. 



This paper is made by hand. 

113. Gandhi to C. Rajagopalachari 



19 March 1928 

.... My anxiety is to meet Rolland. He appears to 
be the wisest man of Europe. He takes an unusual interest 
in me and feels grieved if he thinks that in any single thing 
my opinion is wrong. It seems to me that it would be a 
tragedy if we do not meet. This is the cause that moves 
me above all else. The rest is thrown in. . . . 

114. Gandhi to Motilal Nehru 

The Ashram , 


27 March 1928 

.... The expected letter being registered was recei- 
ved only today. It is a long letter. He 1 would like me to 
go to Europe, but he himself is not likely to be in his place 
before June. I expect a reply to another letter from him. 
I am in no hurry to go. I would therefore like to await 
further news from him. Somehow or other I can’t put my 
heart into this proposed visit. My heart is in the boycott. . . . 

1 Romain Rolland 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


115. Gandhi to C. Rajagopalachari 

The Ashram , 


28 March 1928 

.... I have your letter about the proposed European 
visit. I have myself no heart in it, nor have I any confi- 
dence in myself about making it successful; but an inter- 
view with Rolland still remains an attraction. All the reputa- 
tion I enjoy in the West is borrowed from him and I feel 
that if I meet him face to face, there may be disillusionment 
on many points. It may be that we should come closer 
than we ever were. I do attach considerable importance 
to our knowing each other much better than we do. 

I quite agree w r ith you that there is nothing to gain 
from the health point of view. I might possibly suffer, 
and health is no consideration whatsoever in the proposed 
trip. From that point of view any hill station in India 
would be infinitely superior for me. . . . 

116. Gandhi to Romain Rolland 

Satyagraha Ashram, 


30 March 1928 

Dear Friend, 

Though the translation of your very kind and ener- 
getic letter has been with me for three days, I am able to 
reach it only at the last moment. But I cannot let the post 
go without sending you a line if only to thank you for your 
friendly frankness. 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

The matter you have discussed is of tremendous impor- 
tance. It is never out of my mind, if only because it is 
for the vindication of Ahimsa that I love to live and should 
equally love to die. But I see that I have not been able 
clearly to explain my position. I must not however enter 
into any argument. If God enables me to meet you this 
year we shall prayerfully discuss the matter and possibly 
come to a joint conclusion. Before deciding finally I pro- 
pose to await your cable or letter as the case may be. 

Meanwhile please accept my best thanks for your cor- 
diality and concern for me. 

Yours sincerely, 
M. K. Gandhi 

117. Gandhi to Muriel Lester 

30 March 1928 

.... I have replied to your cablegram. Nothing is 
yet certain. I am not clear in my own mind as to what 
I should do. I am now in correspondence with M. Romain 
Rolland. His final reply will help me to come to some 
decision. . . . 

118. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
31 March 1928 

My dear Friend, 

I have just received your letter of 16 March; it presents 
my conscience with a real problem. 

You know how joyful I should be to see Gandhi. But 
if the main object of Gandhi’s visit to Europe is to see me, 
then I unhesitatingly say: “No, it’s too much. It isn’t right. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Indeed, it would be a bad thing if Gandhi were to interrupt 
his whole action in India to see me.” 

Besides, I fear you may have given Gandhi an idea of 
me which isn’t quite exact. I am, as everyone knows, deep- 
ly committed to ideas of peace and fraternal union among 
men, and when necessary I have sacrificed my own inte- 
rests and tranquillity to them. But Pm not devoted solely 
to the cause of peace and social action. 

I am on the one hand a profoundly religious being — 
in my own way, which is free. And on the other hand I’m 
a European intellectual and artist whose main efforts are 
directed towards the living comprehension of all human 
souls. I consider that my main role is to understand and 
enlighten, — to be a sort of archway linking together the 
minds of men and women, of peoples and races; to under- 
stand all so as to love all . 

Here’s an example to illustrate my case: 

I have a great respect, an intellectual reverence for 
Goethe. Gan Gandhi admit such an attitude of mind? 

Therefore I fear that if Gandhi comes to Europe for 
me, I may cause him a deep disappointment, and that I 
want to avoid at all costs. 

But I know that a visit from him could be infinitely 
salutary and beneficial to Europe . And for myself — for my 
sister and I — it would be a very great joy. 

I’m writing these lines in haste; take them as an ex- 
pression of my need for absolute truth and my wish that 
Gandhi should decide knowing exactly what the situation is. 

Ever yours, 

Romain Rolland 


119. Extract from Romain Rollaad’s Diary 

Maich 1928 .— My letter to Gandhi of 21 January has 
inspired a long letter from him, dated 14-17 February. 
Though he is very unwell, he insisted on replying at once 
in English and at the same time sending a French trans- 
lation (by Mira) which he also signed. I notice that Gan- 
dhi is much more grateful for criticism than for praise; he 
seems to get a secret pleasure from it, as he would from a 
reviving and stimulating cold shower. Anyway, the stubborn 
old fellow will not concede an iota of the errors of which 
he is accused. He likes you better for standing up to him, 
but at heart he is a mule — a sacred mule. No one can 
convince him, and he convinces no one. He has been 
taken with a sudden and burning desire to come to Europe 
again and see me. I must confess I fear the ordeal — for 
him as much as for me. (More so, in fact! I don't mind 
being thought ill of, but I should not wish to think ill of 

.... Mira adds that the “invitations' 5 come from the 
War Resisters' International (Congress at Sonntagsberg, 
Vienna, 27-30 July) and The World Youth Peace Congress, 
1928 (in Holland, 17-26 August). Gandhi is waiting for my 
opinion on the subject. If he accepts, he would arrive in 
Europe in May, or the beginning of June at the latest; that 
would allow him to spend some time in Switzerland before 
the Congress. (There is still a possibility that Gandhi may 
go beforehand to Singapore and the Federated Malay States, 
in late March and April. And this from a man who is still 
seriously ill! Mira says the doctors forbid him long conver- 
sations. ... It is much to be feared that his health wilL 
bring him to a final standstill before he leaves for Europe.) 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


120. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

March 1928 . -Gandhi is thinking more and more about 
coming to Europe, but he tells me that the real reason for 
coming would be to see me and come to an understanding 
with me; everything else is accessory. This trust should give 
me cause for some pride; in fact it gives me much more of 
a feeling of heavy responsibility, and I fear that whatever 
interest I may have stimulated in Gandhi is based on a 
misunderstanding. I should be most grieved to abuse it. 

121. Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru 

Satyagraha Ashram, 


1 April 1928 

.... Though Romain Rolland’s first expected letter 
has arrived and [he] warmly looks [forward] to my pro- 
posed visit, it does not enable me to come to a decision. 
As the time for arriving at a fixed decision is drawing nearer, 
my diffidence is growing. There may be however a cable 
from Rolland next week and it may decide my fate. . . . 

122. Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru 

The Ashram , 


5 April 1928 

.... No final decision has yet been arrived at about 
the European visit. I am shirking it and making it depend 


Remain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

upon some further Indication from Rolland which I should 
have next week. . * . 

123. Gandhi to Dr. M. A. Ansari 

The Ashram , 
7 April 1928 

. . . . The proposed European visit is causing me 
much trouble just now. I can’t make up my mind. I 
know that I should not be so undecided like this. But what 
is the use of my hiding my weakness? I can’t account 
for it myself. However, I should come to a decision in the 
course of the next fortnight at the latest. Improvement in 
health has no attraction for me. The meeting with M. 
Remain Rolland and a quiet conference with the chief men 
of Europe is what would take me to Europe. Let us see how 
God leads me. . . . 

124. Gandhi to Muriel Lester 

The Ashram , 
13 April 1928 

.... I can’t summon up sufficient courage to make 
up my mind whether to go to Europe or not to go. I am 
therefore waiting for an expected letter from Romain 
Rolland. The expected letter will compel me to make up 
my mind finally. I don’t know why I have difficulty in 
making up my mind about the European visit in spite of 
your glowing letter. . . . 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


125. Romam Holland to Gandhi 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
16 April 1928 

My dear Friend, 

Thank you for your letter of 30 March which I have 
just received. 

I see you are still uncertain whether to come, and I 
fear my last letter may have added to your uncertainties 
rather than clarifying them. I wrote it in haste to catch 
the post, and I couldn’t weigh my terms exactly. I wouldn’t 
want it to be misunderstood. 

Please understand that it was a moral scruple which 
drove me to write it, and rather than fall short, I was 
inclined to exaggerate that scruple. A sincere man like 
yourself knows how painful it is to risk giving an idea of 
oneself different from what one really is — even if it’s supe- 
rior to what one is — indeed, above all if it’s superior. . . . 

I am not, as you are, a man whose inner forces are 
realized in action — though my action is always faithful to my 
thought. The essence of my life is rather to be found in 
thought. True and free thought is my commanding need, 
my vital necessity, and the role which has been given to 
me; I have never ceased to work towards it. 

This need to know, to understand (and understanding 
is impossible without love), this perpetual drive for truth 
corresponds to a religious instinct within me, very deep, 
which was for a long time obscure, then in a sort of half- 
light, and has steadily become brighter. The closer I come 
to my end as an individual, the more I feel myself filled 
with God, and I realize this God in the particular field of 


Romain Holland and Gandhi ; Correspondence 

beauty and truth. I know that He is far beyond this, but 
I touch Him, I taste Him, and I breathe His breath. 

Thus my divine field (if I may so express it) is per- 
haps different from yours, though they touch. But they 
belong to the same Master; they are of His flesh. 

However great would be my joy to see you and speak 
with you, I still believe that it would be neither right nor 
fair for you to come to Europe solely for that. 

But it would be right and it would be fair for you to 
come to Europe in order to make contact with the youth 
of Europe, which needs your help, your advice and your 

And it is necessary in either case (whether you come 
or not), it is indispensable that you should give an abso- 
lutely clear, precise and definitive formulation to the listening 
world of your doctrine, your faith, on the matter of war 
and non-acceptance. 

We are both of us fairly old and of suspect health; we 
may disappear any day. It is important that we should 
leave a precise testament to the youth of the world which it 
can use as a rule of conduct, for it will have a terrible bur- 
den to bear in the coming half-century. I see fearful trials 
building up in front of them. It no longer seems to me a 
matter of doubt that there is in preparation an era of des- 
truction, an age of global wars beside which all those of the 
past will seem only children’s games, of chemical warfare 
which will annihilate whole populations. What moral 
armour are we offering to those who will have to face up to 
the monster which we shall not live to see? What imme- 
diate answer to the riddle of the murderous Sphinx, who will 
not wait? What marching orders? 

Our words must not be equivocal. We have the sad 
example of Christ, whose admirable Gospels contain too 
many passages which, though not contradictory in funda- 
mental content, at least appear so in form, and lend them- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


selves to the self-interested interpretations of the worst Phari- 
sees. In the last war we saw in all countries how hypo- 
crites, fanatics, statesmen like Lloyd George, bishops and 
pastors, false believers and, worst of all, true believers, could 
by chosen passages from the New Testament justify them- 
selves for extolling war, vengeance and holy murder. In the 
coming crises, there must be no doubt about Gandhi’s 

Then again, it is necessary to weigh all the consequen- 
ces of the orders given, to weigh the forces of the men to 
whom they will be entrusted. The young men of Europe 
are aware of the trials waiting for them. They don’t want 
to be duped about the imminence of the danger, which too 
many “pacifists” are trying not to see and to put out of their 
minds. They want to look it clearly in the face, and they 
ask: “To what extent is it reasonable, to what extent is it 
human , not to accept ? Must the sacrifice be total, absolute, 
without exception, without any consideration either for our- 
selves or for the things which surround us and depend on 
us? And in all honesty to ourselves, can we be sure that 
this total sacrifice will diminish the sum total of future 
human sufferings — or does it not risk handing over man’s 
destiny to a barbarity without counterweight?” 

I’m asking the questions (some of the questions) wdiich 
I feel are being turned over in the minds of the young. I’m 
not giving my own answers. I don’t count. My impor- 
tance in this matter is secondary alongside yours. The 
man of pure thought (pure in the intellectual sense) has 
no more than a weak effect on the present; his forecasts 
have only a long-term chance of working themselves out. 
But you as a man of active faith are the direct intermediary 
between the forces of Eternity and present movements. You 
are on the poop-deck; you have the power to give direct 
orders to the sailors how to steer the ship in the storm. Give 
those orders! Let’s stop thinking about the port we have 


Remain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

left (that 1914 war, about which we seem unable to reach 
understanding and which risks confusing all our discussions) 
and look to the port we must reach — in the future! 

My dear friend, I’m sorry to be always speaking to you 
so freely. I am aware of my moral inferiority. I am not 
worthy to touch your feet. But I know the anxiety and the 
doubts which assail the best men in Europe, and I am 
passing on what they say. 

Assuring you of my respectful affection, 

Romain Rolland 

126. Madeleine Rolland to Madeleine Slade 

16 April 1928 

Dear Friend, 

We have just received your letter of the 30th of March 
with the precious lines of Gandhiji. I do not know if, out 
there, you have fully realized the temptation to send forth- 
with the cable calling him here! But how would it have 
been possible to explain in a cable all that Romain wished 
that your Bapu should know about him before deciding in 
full knowledge of the case regarding the voyage to Europe, 
so big with consequences? With a man of Gandhi’s emi- 
nence there is no question of being satisfied with approxi- 
mations — one must lay one’s soul bare. I agreed with 
Romain that he should explain his position exactly in this 
vital problem, and risk to appear to wish to retard the 
voyage, and all the same! What a tremendous price it 
would be for us! And we are sure that the coming of 
Gandhiji to Europe would give to all those who fight for 
Ahimsa a renewal of faith, would be for all a source of 
inspiration and- joy, and awaken so many others to the 
true life! Yes. Gandhi cannot come for only one man, 
however great may be that man’s moral influence. He 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


should come for all afflicted souls who await his contact 
and his word amongst us. May this sacrifice of my brother 
to Truth in no way be the cause of your Bapu refusing to 
come ! — and then so many points w r ould be cleared up by the 
two of them in affectionate discussion, as he has said himself. 

Well I hope — we hope — that a favourable decision will 
not be delayed, if the situation in India does not become 
suddenly aggravated. A paragraph in European newspa- 
pers professing to give Sir J. Simon’s opinion said that he 
was opposed to any change of Government in India. One 
always trembles, lest this kind of thing may drive the 
Indians to an explosion — very understandable — if the news 
should be true. 

With very affectionate thoughts, 

Madeleine Rolland 

127. Gandhi to Motilal Nehru 

The Ashram, 


20 April 1928 

.... The expected letter from Romain Rolland is due next 
Tuesday at the latest. I must after that come to a deci- 
sion quickly. Supposing that Romain Rolland predis- 
poses me in favour of the European visit, what w r ould 
you have me to do in view of the talk of the boycott? 
Would you want me for the sake of the boycott not to go 
to Europe? I shall accept your decision whatever it may 
be. I am not personally keen on the European visit, but if 
all is plain sailing in India, and if Romain Rolland wants 
me to visit Europe, I should feel bound to accept the 
European invitations. Will you please wire your decision? 
Jawahar will be with you and probably you wall know 
Doctor Ansari’s mind. . . . 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

128. Gandhi to C. F. Andrews 

The Ashram , 


22 April 1928 

. . . .You will be perhaps sorry to hear that I have 
■decided not to go to Europe this year. There was no call 
for me to go in answer to the various invitations, but I 
felt that, if Rolland considered it worth while my going to 
meet him in furtherance of the common cause, I would 
go and incidentally respond to invitations from Europe. 
Now there is the expected letter from him. I send you a copy 
so that you can better understand my decision. Rolland’s 
hesitation to let me go to Europe principally for the sake 
of meeting him shows that as an artist and as the inter- 
preter of my message he does not regard it as necessary 
that I should leave all my important work here and go to 
Europe to meet him. And as there is no call in him to 
ask me to go or to accept my offer to go, I feel that if my 
letter to him was truthful, that is to say, if the deciding mo- 
tive was to see him, I should consider his letter to be God’s 
guidance in answer to my prayer. As days went by I was 
hardening my heart feeling more and more reluctant to 
go to Europe at the present moment and was feeling also 
that I had nothing to give to Europe, whereas my hands 
were absolutely full here. The call of the Ashram is in- 
cessant. It is becoming clearer day by day that if I am to 
do justice to the Ashram, which I claim to be my best 
creation, and if I cannot give it the whole of my time, 
I must at least give to it the major part of my time. . . . 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


129. Gandlu to European Friends 

It is not without deep sorrow that I am now able to 
announce that the much-talked-of visit of mine to Europe is 
not to come off this year at any rate. To those in Austria, 
Holland, England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany 
and Russia who had sent me kind invitations I can only 
say that their disappointment will be no greater than 

Somehow or other I dread a visit to Europe and 
America. Not that I distrust the peoples of these great 
Continents any more than I distrust my own, but I dis- 
trust myself. I have no desire to go to the West in search 
of health or for sightseeing. I have no desire to deliver 
public speeches. I detest being lionized. I wonder if I 
shall ever again have the health to stand the awful strain 
of public speaking, and public demonstrations. If God ever 
sent me to the West, I should go there to penetrate the 
hearts of the masses, to have quiet talks with the youth 
of the West and have the privilege of meeting kindred spirits 
— lovers of peace at any price save that of Truth. 

But I feel that I have as yet no message to deliver per- 
sonally to the West. I believe my message to be universal, 
but as yet I feel that I can best deliver it through my 
work in my own country. If I can show visible success in 
India, the delivery of the message becomes complete. If I 
came to the conclusion that India had no use for my 
message, I should not care to go elsewhere in search of lis- 
teners even though I still retained faith in it If, there- 
fore, I ventured out of India, I should do so because I have 
faith, though I cannot demonstrate it to the satisfaction 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

of all, that the message is being surely received by India 
be it ever so slowly. 

Thus whilst I was hesitatingly carrying on the corres- 
pondence with friends who had invited me, I saw that 
there was need for me to go to Europe, if only to see M. 
Romain Rolland. Owing to my distrust of myself over a 
general visit, I wanted to make my visit to that wise man 
of the West the primary cause of my journey to Europe. I 
therefore referred my difficulty to him and asked him in 
the frankest manner possible whether he would let me 
make my desire to meet him the primary cause of my 
visit to Europe. In reply I have a noble letter from him 
through Mirabai (Miss Slade) wherein he says that in the 
name of truth itself, he will not think of letting me go to 
Europe if a visit to him is to be the primary cause. He will 
not let me interrupt my labours here for the sake of our 
meeting. I read in his letter no false humility. I read in 
it a most genuine expression of truth. He knew when he 
wrote his reply that my desire to go to Europe to meet 
him was not for a mere courteous discussion but in the inte- 
rest of the cause as dear to him as to me. But evidently 
he was too humble to bear the burden of calling me merely 
so that in furtherance of the common interest we might by 
mutual talks understand each other better. And I wanted 
him to shoulder that very burden, if he felt that truth 
required us to meet each other face to face. His reply there- 
fore I have taken as a clear answer to my prayer. Apart 
from this visit, I felt within me no imperative call. 

I have taken the public into my confidence as, against 
my wish, the fact that a visit to Europe during this season 
was under serious contemplation was published in the 
papers. I regret my decision but it seems to be the correct 
one. For whilst there is no urge within ’to go to Europe, 
there is an incessant call within for so much to do here. 
And now the death of my best comrade seems to keep 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


me rooted to the Ashram. 

But I may say to the many friends in Europe, that next 
year, if all is well and if they still will have me I shall try 
to undertake the postponed tour, under the strict limita- 
tions mentioned by me and this I shall do whether I am 
ready to deliver my message or not. To see my numerous 
friends face to face will be no small privilege. But let me 
conclude this personal explanation by saying that if ever 
I am privileged to visit the West, I shall go there without 
changing my dress or habits, save in so far as the climate 
may require a change and self-imposed restrictions may 
permit. My outward form is, I hope, an expression of the 

Young India , 26-4-1928 

130. Madeleine Slade to Romain Holland 

The Ashram, 


27 April 1928 

My dear Brother, 

I have your noble letter of 31st March. Bapu is deep- 
ly touched and he tells you everything from the bottom of 
his heart in his article in this week’s Young India. (He 
wrote it at 3 o’clock in the morning of the day following 
the death of Maganlalbhai.) He does not want to put you 
in a difficult position, but at the same time the desire to 
meet you remains the same. Well then, he is ready to come 
next year. And if he comes according to the way he puts 
it in his article, how much better it will be for him, for 
you and for the world! He very much wanted to write to 
you himself, but he cannot, on account of all that has hap- 
pened — you can well understand! And he has left it to 
me to explain. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

I can’t tell you how much he has suffered on account 
of this loss — it is a terrible blow. The telegram giving the 
news of Maganlal’s death arrived on Monday morning, his 
Silence Day, when he always writes for Young India . He 
went straight to Maganlal’s wife, and stayed in their house 
the whole day writing his articles and doing all his work 
without a moment’s rest. The tension was fearful — you will 
see in the article and understand everything. And if Bapu 
can come to Europe later, the joy and the good will be 
still greater. 

Your humble little sister who longs again to see and 
embrace her great and dearly beloved brother, but who 
must continue to wait! 


131. Extract from Romain Rolland’ s Diary 

April 1928 -Gandhi, who shows himself to be more 
and more concerned with my letters to him about the 
war, but cannot make up his mind to clarify his attitude 
in 1914, which is rather difficult to understand, has written 
to me again — uncertain whether he will come to Europe, 
eager to see me, but waiting for me to give him the word 
(which I do not want to do, for reasons I have already sta- 
ted). I write to him again (16 April). 

132. Extract from Romain Rolland’ s Diary 

10 May 1928 . -Visited by Ambalal Sarabhai, a major in- 
dustrialist from Ahmedabad. . . . He is on friendly terms 
with Gandhi, whose Ashram is three miles away from 
his home, on the other bank of the river. . . . But this owner 
and director of large cotton mills finds himself much em- 
barrassed by Gandhi’s bans, which would have him shut 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


down his works, unless he confined himself to luxury mate- 
rials, so as not to compete against the spinning-wheel in- 
dustry. One senses that he has clearly decided not to pay 
any attention. Gandhi’s wish to come to Europe to see 
me is known in those parts; people were sure he would 

133. Romain Holland to Madeleine Slade 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa 01 
14 May 1928 

My dear sister Mira. 

I have just received your letter of 27 April telling us 
of the cruel blow which has struck our great triend. We are 
most saddened bv it, and we ask vou to tell him how' 
much our love sympathizes with his grief. There is no 
deeper wound than the loss of the filial companion of almost 
a whole lifetime ; it’s the purest of our blood flowing away. 

But nothing belongs to us, neither ourselves nor our 
nearest and dearest. We are drops of w r ater in a tor- 
rential current; drops which pass, but wherever they are 
they do not leave the river, and the same river is in each of 
them. We do not direct the course of the river; its cur- 
rent carries us along; but this current is ourselves. Fiat 
voluntas \ . . . 

I trust in the force of the current w r hich carries Gan- 
dhi’s W'ork. Men will be found somewhere to carry it along. 
The flood-gates have been opened and the impulse has been 

But our great friend must be careful for his life! He’s 
not the absolute master of it. It’s been given to him, and 
he must not burn it up faster than he is authorized to do! 
His task is not complete; above all he must not forget to 
leave clear directives to the world, his words of testament! 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

I hope with all my heart that we shall meet next year, 
and if our wishes have any power, mine will do all they 
can to bring it about. But our destinies are uncertain. My 
health, like Gandhi’s, is deeply undermined and threaten- 
ed. And since I am much more deprived than he of intel- 
lectual companions — my only really proven companion is 
my sister, whose life is no more assured than mine — I 
must use every moment left to me to give written realization 
to my life’s work, to the spiritual mission with which 
I have been entrusted. For though my work finds echoes 
everywhere, in almost half a century of working life I have 
not met anyone who can take my place. This thought 
weighs heavily on the shoulders of a man of 62 who knows 
he has said so little as yet of what it was his task to say. 

Best wishes to you and Gandhi, with all my love, 

Romain Rolland 

P.S. I hope Gandhi will allow me to join my pleas to 
yours and consent to seek a less destructive climate and a 
little rest during the hot season 1 

134. Extract from Romain Rolland 3 s Diary 

May 19 28. -A letter of 27 April from Mirabehn says 
that Gandhi has received my letter of 31 March and was 
deeply disturbed by it; he has written what he thinks about 
it in his weekly article in Young India. Thus he has decided 
not to come to Europe this year; but he esteems me all the 
more, and he hopes to come next year. He explains in his 
article that apart from wanting to visit me, he was un- 
certain and worried about the journey to Europe: he felt 
that the universal message which he was to bring was not 
yet ready, or that the best way of serving Europe was by 
his example in India. In any case his visit would have had 
to be cancelled at the last moment on account of a sudden 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


bereavement: the death of his dearest companion and intel- 
lectual heir, his grandson Maganlalbhai Gandhi. 1 * This was 
a terrible blow to him. This emotion, his overwork and 
the torrid heat are a severe trial for his already most suspect 
health. His friends are very worried, but they can do 
nothing for him. Gandhi is now' determined not to leave 
the Ashram, despite the summer season. 

135. Extract from Romain Holland 9 s Diary 

7 August 1928 .— Visited by two Indians: one of Gandhi’s 
most forceful lieutenants, Rajendra Prasad, from Bihar, the 
leader in India of the non-co-operation movement, and a 
companion from the Punjab, Bhai Balmukand. 

136. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

3 September 1928 . -Visited by Sir J. G. Bose and Lady 
Bose. He has no sympathy for Gandhi’s asceticism and his 
exhortations to return to nature and simplicity. He is too 
strong an incarnation of the genius of creative invention 
not to be a declared champion of progress, of the eternal 
march forward which never turns back. He is in favour 
of the development in India of large-scale industries, and 
he says that Gandhi’s khaddar, powerless to stop them, 
merely serves to provoke Japanese imitations; India is al- 
ready being inundated wdth false khaddar, perfectly imi- 
tated, made in Tokyo. 

1 This has a reference to MaganJal Gandhi, a grandson of an 

uncle of Gandhiji. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

137. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

16 September 1928 - Andrews spends the day with us. He 
has been at a religious Congress (religious forces against 
war) in Geneva, and is going back to England. 

.... He says that the followers of Ramakrishna always 
relate their religious practices to the adoration of some 
image, whereas the followers of Gandhi have none; on the 
other hand, the latter are very fond of religious music. 
Gandhi’s popularity is immense; there is not an Indian in 
whom his name does not evoke deep emotion. Wherever he 
goes, the people come running. Andrews describes one of 
his open-air meetings, with Gandhi in the centre, and 
Andrews close to him. All around him in a circle, thousands 
of rows of people crushed together. When Andrews had to 
make his way through them in order to leave, he counted 
his steps in a straight line which formed a radius from the 
centre of the conference. From the figure thus obtained, it 
was calculated that the audience must have numbered 
more than a hundred thousand. Andrews adds that he 
never likes to escort Gandhi in these assemblies, for he is- 
always afraid that the multitudes crowding around Gandhi 
will one day suffocate him. I try to find out what link 
there is between Gandhi and Vivekananda. Andrews says 
that it was indeed from Vivekananda that Gandhi took the 
sublime formula 1 of “God-Narajana” } God in the form of the 
poor and the oppressed. Andrews, who has faithfully revered 
Gandhi for twenty years, has never been able to accept two 
of his acts: his recruiting role for England at the beginning ofi 

1 The reference is to the term Dandranarayan. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


the war, and his exhortations to boycott and burn foreign 
merchandise. On the second point, Gandhi has recognized that 
he went too far, and that it was from his words that sprang 
the violence he condemned. But he has never been willing 
to disavow his attitude during the war, despite the endless 
arguments Andrews has had with him, during the war 
and after; for the two men are each as stubborn as the 
other in their ideas. By and large, I have come to the 
conclusion that Gandhi is a hero in an age of transi- 
tion, who, like many others, has been divided between 
two ideals, that of the past and that of the future, and 
has been forced to abandon the first only very slowly, 
with difficulty, as if with regret. Nor must his legal train- 
ing be forgotten; it has left him with certain habits of 
thought. He has always kept a natural respect for the 
state, the law and the military authorities. He is the op- 
posite of a rebel (the opposite by temperament of a man 
like Vivekananda, wffiose reason and religion had to fight 
against his instinctive movements of revolt;. Gandhi has 
become a great rebel only because circumstances forced his 
moral generosity and his honesty in that direction. 

Andrews arrived in India in 1904. He was for seve- 
ral years a teacher in Delhi. In 1908 he met Pearson, and 
in 1913 he went with him to South Africa to join and assist 
Gandhi. Pearson was his dearest friend. 

He says that Communism has gained much ground 
in India, particularly in northern India and Bengal, and its 
gold is corrupting many of the poorer Indian leaders who 
are more easily open to temptation. Unfortunately even 
some Trades Unionists are inclined to accept for their 
parties the sums offered them by Communism under a show 
of disinterest but in fact to compromise them in their com- 
pany. The moral change is rapidly taking place. Andrew's 
foresees that very soon the question between former 
supporters of Gandhi will no longer be co-operation or 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

non-co-operation, but violence or non-violence; and the 
outcome of the debate worries him. This is why he would be so 
pleased if Gandhi would pronounce categorically and finally 
on the subject of war, any war. It is not that he has the least 
doubts about Gandhi’s personal feelings at the present time; 
but it is essential that he should impose them publicly. 

138. Extract from Romain RolIancPs Diary 

October 1928 - The daughter of Stepan Raditch, the Croat 
parliamentarian and political leader, recently assassinated 
in the middle of a session of the Yugoslav Diet, informs me 
(17 October) that her father had translated and written a 
preface to my book on Mahatma Gandhi. “He was en- 
thusiastic about it because of the affinities that existed bet- 
ween Gandhi’s ideas and his own well-known opinions. 
It was above all the ideals of peace and democracy which 
they had in common.” 

139. Jawaharlal Nehru to Romain. Rolland 

All India Congress Committee , 
Fifty-two Hewett Road, 


22 January 1929 

Mons. Romain Rolland, 

Villa Olga, 

Villeneuve (Vaud) 


Dear Mons. Rolland, 

On behalf of the Indian National Congress I have to 
express my deep gratitude to you for the beautiful message 
of greeting that you sent us. Your message was read out 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


at the open Congress and was greatly appreciated. It is 
a great consolation to us that in our struggles in India we 
have the sympathy of great thinkers across the seas. We 
have every hope that our efforts, aided as they are by your 
blessings, will meet with success. 

With regards and greetings. 

Yours sincerely, 
Jawaharlal Nehru 

140. Remain Rolland’s Message on Lajpat Rai’s Death. 1 

January 1929 

I had the honour of meeting Lajpat Rai several times 
in Europe, and of talking with him. Of these meetings I 
have a very vivid recollection. He possessed the penetrating 
insight into men and nations, the qtiick infallible glance, 
the bold yet just determination, the exactitude and precision 
in all details of action, which make the master-mind, 
the great statesman. I have often remarked, since, that I 
considered him to be the equal of our greatest European 
politicians (Europe has none of such calibre today). 

But to these gifts of an active mind, which the West is 
accustomed to consider as belonging to itself alone, he 
added the soul of ancient India, of the old Rishis — heroic 
faith, unlimited selflessness and absolute sacrifice. 

I have always thought that if Dayanand Sarasvati had 
lived in our time he would have thrilled with joy at recog- 
nizing in Lajpat Rai the highest type of the Arya Samaj, 
the warrior, the knight “without fear and without reproach” 
who devotes his life to the defence of justice. I read again 
the lines of Dayanand: 

1 Lajpat Rai died on November 17, 1928 in Lahore. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

“To strive to combat, to humiliate, to destroy the wick- 
ed, though they be powerful, the sovereigns of the whole 
earth. To strive constantly to undermine the power of the 
unjust and to strengthen that of the just — though oneself 
must undergo terrible suffering, even death, let no attempt 
be made to avert it.” 

This hero’s vow was kept by Lajpat Rai until the day of 
his death. Hail to the Bayard of India, to the great Rishi! 

Romain Rolland 

141. Romain Rolland to Gandhi 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
Monday , 17 February 1929 

My dear Friend, 

We have been reading in Young India your reasons for 
giving up your trip to Europe this year. We understand 
them too well to think of countering them by reasons based 
on our own selfish affection — or even by those of the youth 
of Europe, threatened by new catastrophes, who could 
profit so much by your advice when they come to decide 
the route to follow and cut through their mortal hesitations. 

But it is clear to me that your first duty is in India 
at this grave hour of vigil before the battle, for I have little 
doubt that this is the eve of the battle. 

All I should like to do is to offer you a few reflections 
on the fearful days which India faces. 

You know the conditions of modern combat. You know 
that the first act of the modern state in warfare is to ruin 
its adversary in the opinion of the rest of the world; to 
this end it stifles its enemy’s voice and fills the world with 
its own. You know that the British Empire is past master 
in this art, and that it has all the wherewithal to blockade 
India and cut her off from the rest of the world, which it 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


can then flood with its own propaganda. The process has 
already started. For the last month events in Bombay have 
served as a pretext for making the world think that India is in 
flames, and every day the main French papers, with a docility 
which I suspect is well-paid, receive the reports coming from 
England and carry stories with large headlines about “Hell 
in Bombay” and the “sinister tally” of each day — as if the 
trouble extended to the whole of India and as if there were 
no evil, crimes or massacres anywhere but in India — as if 
the salvation of all humanity depended on the good gaoler 
keeping the prison doors well bolted, to protect the world 
from the Indian hydra which he alone in his heroism is 
able to keep in chains! It is easy to imagine how shrill this 
propaganda will become as the decisive hour approaches, 
and when the gauntlet is down it will know no bounds. 

Now I have already seen far too much evidence of the 
terrifying intellectual passivity in which the peoples of 
Europe are at present lying. Ever since the first day of 
the 1914 war their poor brains have been subjected to so 
much daily intoxication from the whole of their press that 
they have become unable to react. This is another type of 
intellectual alcoholism, no less ravaging in its effects than 
the other. There is hardly a free newspaper left in the West. 
There is not one where a free man like myself can write 
(except for a few poor new r s-sheets with no circulation and 
one or two large reviews which do not reach a wide public 
because they appear at infrequent intervals and cost quite 
a lot). 

I consider it would be of urgent utility to India to take 
the first step — before the blockade which awaits her — and 
have her cause heard directly in Europe. I do not suggest 
that you take a stance of political “mendicancy”, as you 
call it, or that you ask for anyone’s help. But in face of 
the tribunal of public opinion where the British Empire as 
plaintiff alone is heard, the defendant too must make herself 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

heard, and become plaintiff in her turn. No one fights 
alone today. The whole world is involved in every conflict, 
and it throws the enormous weight of its opinion into one 
of the trays of the balance — either for or "against. It was 
largely by this weight of opinion, well directed and well 
manipulated by the Allies, that the German Empire was 

It would be unwise of the Indian leaders to neglect 
these great forces. It seems to me indispensable that they 
should use this year to prepare European opinion, to open 
the eyes of the thousands of men here who are blindfolded 
by their domesticated press. If you do not come yourself, other 
highly qualified Indian personalities should make themselves 
seen and heard in various countries of Europe and America. 
But the difficulty is to find such personalities whose name 
already represents in the world, as yours does, an uncon- 
testable moral power, whose ascendency will force the crowds 
to listen and believe them. Alongside yourself, only Tagore 
enjoys this ascendency in Europe, and Tagore’s health does 
not permit him much effort now. It should be your task to 
see who could be India’s best legates in Europe. Anyway, 
do not neglect this form of action! And prepare straight- 
away, if you can, channels through which India can keep in 
communication with Europe, to be ready for the extremely 
likely contingency of communications being officially cut off 
by the British Government. 

My dear friend, I send you my affectionate wishes for 
your health. Look after it, m view of tomorrow’s great task 
for which your presence is indispensable. 

Please believe in my respect and fraternal devotion. 


Romain Rolland 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


142. Madeleine Slade to Romain Holland 

Chatwam Village, 


18 February 1929 

My dear Brother, 

Not yet! But for sure later — that is my firm impression. 
You were very much in Bapu’s thoughts when he deci- 
ded not to leave India during this year, and he has told 
me to write to you. 

.... Surely Bapu could not leave his country at such 
a moment. 

.... Dear Friend, I believe I have never given Bapu 
an inexact idea of you. But now, after your last letter, I think, 
and Bapu also, that I have never sufficiently praised the 
nobleness of your soul. 

Your Mira 

143. Gandhi to Romain Holland 

Satyagraha Ashram, 


27 February 1929 

Dear Friend, 

This letter introduces you to a young friend B. B. Desai 
from whom when I was convalescent I received kind treat- 
ment in his bungalow at a seaside place. Young Desai is an 
earnest student of French. He has been professor of French 
in a Bombay College. He wants however to increase his 
knowledge of French and therefore wishes to place himself 


Roznain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

under the influence of French savants. If you could give 
him any help in this direction I shall appreciate it. 

Yours sincerely, 
M. K. Gandhi 

M. Romain Rolland 
Villa Olga 

144. Extract from Romain Rolland’ s Diary 

February 2929,-Gandhi announces in Young India his 
intention not to leave India this year and to give up the 
journey to Europe which had been settled on. I understand 
his reasons only too well; it is an armed vigil. Gandhi has 
recently obtained from Congress that a final deadline should 
be set for England by which to grant India her requested 
constitution. After this deadline, which expires on 31 Decem- 
ber next, Gandhi has promised to join the rest of his 
people in seeking total and unconditional independence. It 
is thus important that he should not leave the battle-posts 
at which he is waiting. I write to him, however (17 Febru- 
ary), to say that if he cannot come himself he should send 
to Europe one or several Indians whose moral personalities 
carry worldwide authority in order to enlighten Europe 
about the struggle which is about to begin. It is only too 
clear that as soon as it starts the British Empire will blockade 
India and flood world opinion with its own false reports so as 
to turn the world against India. India should thus take 
the first step. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


145. Gandhi to Romain Rolland 



2 May 1929 

Dear Friend, 

I have before me a translation by Mira of your kind 
and touching letter of 17th February last. I have been 
anticipating your permission to make cautious use of por- 
tions of that letter without mentioning your name. 

I am glad you think with me that the proper course for 
me was not to come to Europe this year. 

With reference to India being heard in Europe, I hold 
the view that India will not be heard in Europe or the West 
until she has suffered more and on a more extensive scale 
than hitherto. Hers will be a voice in the wilderness at the 
present moment. And I feel that even the biased, and in 
some cases, bribed journalists of Europe will shudder to 
take as gospel truth all the manifest and one-sided exaggera- 
tions and falsehoods circulated by the British Government 
if India is not represented. I feel too that this non-violent 
battle does not need the same kind of propaganda that 
a battle based on violence would. Thirdly, there is the 
practical difficulty that you mention of finding one w r ho can 
be at all heard. The only person I have in view is for the 
moment Andrews, since the Poet is unavailable. Andrews 
will certainly be heard in the quarters that matter. 

I hope you are keeping well and that God will permit 
you to hold out till the battle is fairly over in India. 

Yours sincerely, 
M. K. Gandhi 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

146. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

27 October 1929 .-Visited by the young Hindu Manilal 
Patel, who has spent two years in Germany, studying philo- 
sophy at Marburg University. ... He has worked in the 
two Ashrams of Gandhi and Tagore, and he brings us two 
pieces of cloth, one made in each of them. He is very con- 
cerned and pessimistic about coming events in India. He 
sees no other possible way at present than that of Gandhi. 

147. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

December 1929 - India proclaims her independence. Gandhi 
joins with Motilal Nehru in the appeal to his people. The 
die is cast. 

148. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

January 1930 .— My Vie de Vivehananda et V Evangile univcrsel is 
published by Stock on 6 January. It coincides with the 
Indian Declaration of Independence at the opening of the 
Congress of Lahore, by Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhi. 

149. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

22 -Visited by Andre Philip, a Frenchman 
who spent some months last year in India, studying it from 
the economic, syndical and co-operative points of view. He 
saw Gandhi, who made a very strong impression on him. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


(The dominating feature in his recollection of the Mahatma 
is an irony which in no way detracts from his faith and 
humility. All agree on Gandhi’s power of fascination, though 
no one can explain it. The thing which most sticks in my 
mind among Philip’s recollections is the independence of 
judgment he noticed among the two hundred or so members 
of Gandhi’s Ashram. They all hold Gandhi in veneration, 
but none of them hesitate to say so when on some point or 
other they do not agree with him. And Gandhi likes people 
to contradict him. He has made of his disciples a nursery 
of future leaders, who will be able to do without each 
other and without him. This is perhaps the rarest thing to 
be found in a great man. On the other hand, in Tagore’s 
Ashram the disciples are shadows who melt away in the 
sunlight of the master.) 

150. Extract from Romain Rolland s s Diary 

22 May - Visited by an Argentinian journalist, Arias, 
correspondent with Critica , a major Buenos Aires newspaper, 
who has been sent to India to follow' the independence move- 
ment. He has approached me beforehand so that I can tell 
him how things are there, and it certainly has not been a 
waste of time, as he know T s almost nothing of the country to 
which he is going. It w r as not without difficulty that he got 
his passport visa from the British Government. The British 
Consul in Berlin said to him: “What does it matter to you 
what’s happening with us? What is there in India that 
could interest the Argentine?’’ The powerful Argentinian 
paper had to exert some pressure in London. I have given 
him introductions in Calcutta and Ahmedabad, to Miss 
Slade and Reginald Reynolds, staying in Gandhi’s Ashram. 
But by the time he reaches India I \ronder whether there 
will still be a single disciple of Gandhi outside prison. The 


Romain Rollaad and Gandhi : Correspondence 

movement is spreading widely, and Gandhi in prison cuts 
the figure of a sovereign on his throne. The European press, 
which only a year ago pretended not to know about him 
or spoke of him ironically, now treats him with astonished 

151. Romain Holland to Dilip Kumar Roy 

Villeneuve { Vaud ) Villa Olga 
3 June 193Q 

.... What you note from Gandhi’s words about art 
seems to me the most interesting of all — but you didn’t 
make the right reply. You should have said: “Humanity 
is always advancing, and the intellectual elite forms its van- 
guard, its pioneers. It is they who pierce the roads by which 
the whole of humanity will later pass. Thus it is false to pre- 
sent this elite as being separate from the masses of huma- 
nity because it goes on ahead. It would be a bad leader of 
men who wanted to make his vanguard march in the main 
body of the army.” 

.... You can add this reply, if you think fit, as a 
footnote to your interview with Gandhi. . . . 

152. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

June 1930.-1 am receiving many letters asking me to 
intervene on India’s behalf. To one of them forwarded to 
me by Monde , I send this reply (3 June) : 

“I have received many letters from Europeans wanting 
to start a movement of protest against Gandhi’s imprison- 
ment. I understand the emotions which have been aroused, 
and I invite Monde to pass on to India the expression of our 
entire sympathy with her in her claim for independence. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


She has the right to it, and she has the strength to take it. 
But it would be useless to protest -against the arrest of 
Gandhi and his volunteers, and it would even be contrary 
to Gandhi’s intentions. Gandhi never thought when he 
set this powerful movement in motion that he and his fol- 
lowers would come through unscathed. He deliberately 
walked out towards prison and death. He wrote on 27 
February that at the end of such a campaign ‘not one single 
civil resister would remain alive or free' . These are not mere 
words. All those who really have a faith are ready for per- 
sonal sacrifice and they do not seek to avoid it, for they know 
that the victory of a great cause is never bought at a lesser 
price. India is so convinced of this that it is congratulations, 
not protests, that are being sent these days to Mrs. Gandhi 
on the Mahatma’s imprisonment. {Young India, 15 May). 
We are witnessing the inexorable development of an Actus 
tragicus, which Gandhi foresaw, willed and commanded. 
The victory of India lies at the end. The British Empire 
may use whatever arms it wishes, but its days are numbered. 
Let us not be deceived by its displays of power and blus- 
ter! From this day forth it is a hunted animal fighting for 
its life. The British Empire was built on a pile of mon- 
strous injustices, on the murderous exploitation of millions 
of men; these millions of men have rediscovered their own 
strength. They only have to shrug their shoulders and the 
British Empire is already trembling on its foundations. We 
shall see it crumble, and may all empires based on pillage 
follow in its fall! We too need to settle our accounts with 
humanity ! 

P.S. Need I add that my condemnation of the British 
Empire in no w-ay affects my love and esteem (which Gandhi 
shares) for the English as individuals? Many of them are 
my friends. Some of them are among India’s noblest cham- 
pions. But we all pay for the crimes of our governments. 
The same thing will happen to us French.” (I give this appeal 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

the title “India Will Conquer”; it appears in Monde about 
12-14 June.) 

153. Extract from Romain Holland 9 s Diary 

5 June 1930.-V isited by Mrs. V. Keller, a teacher at the 
New School of Odenwald, who has just spent nearly a year in 
India. She also visited Gandhi and Tagore, and travelled 
through a large part of the country. The dominating figure 
in India at present is incontestably Gandhi. Even in the 
Ramakrishna Mission, which makes a point of keeping out of 
politics, all the monks and even the superior are illuminated 
by his thought and speak of him with a radiant smile. Mrs. 
V. Keller, who nevertheless is good at observing and noting 
amusing little details (which aren’t lacking in Gandhi), was 
still charmed by his personality: above all his absolute 
straightforwardness, his cloudless and unvarying honesty, 
and his attentive interest in everything surrounding him, 
large and small. He has the ability to carry off actions which 
might appear ridiculous without raising a smile: (before 
dinner he sends for his false teeth in full view of everyone, 
puts them in, calmly tries them out, then after eating he 
removes them and puts them back in a glass of water). 
He is adored and venerated by all who surround him; he 
converses with them on an equal footing, asking and giving 
advice with familiar good humour. 

154. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

31 August 1930.— C. F. Andrews comes to lunch. . . . 
(He) says that Tagore has come much closer to Gandhi this 
year; he has understood his grandeur, and the last meeting 
between the two men last February was beneficial to both 
of them. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


155. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

14 September fP50.-Kalidas Nag back from a long lec- 
ture tour through Europe. I learn from him — a thing which 
the papers hide — that there are at present twenty-five thou- 
sand Indians in prison; and that even the Moderates who 
have made themselves intermediaries between the British 
Government and Gandhi share the same desire for national 
independence, which they will defend at the Round Table 

156. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

September 1930 - The young English Quaker, Reginald 
Reynolds, who played a vigorous part in Gandhi's last cam- 
paign, writes to me from London (15 September). He tells 
me of his fruitless efforts in England, and of his sufferings 
in his Quaker environment, which he attacks for its false 
pacifism, cowardly and shifty. “They are always thinking 
about ‘Peace 5 , and they prefer peace even if founded on vio- 
lence and injustice to civil resistance against tyranny, which 
(for them) evokes anarchy. . . They cannot understand 
that their visible (apparent) peace is sometimes a violent 
peace which profanes peace of mind.” He also speaks of the 
“crushing disillusionment” of English youth, which had be- 
lieved until now in the “idealism” of the Labour Party in 
England, and now see idealism denied in the public interest. 
“Once again, religion and the social gospel have been used 
to deceive the credulous enthusiasm of youth. . . . The 
professionals of religion and politics have betrayed us. We 
know now that w r e are betrayed, but we are few and without 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

guides. Against violence and cynical ‘moderation’, we feel 
ourselves powerless. I myself am only 25 years old. I have faith 
and I know I am intelligent; but I lack strength. I was born 
to serve some great leader, and he whom I wish to serve is 
imprisoned in Yeravda. I write all this to you because I 
know that you are one of the only men in the West who 
can understand everything. I know that you have clear 
sight and that you can see above the battle. I implore you 
to send me a few lines in reply. Remember that I am a 
pupil who has lost his master! ...” 

He signs: “Your devoted son.” 

.... (I give him a few directives, a few ideas he can 
act on, one of which is to draft a gospel of action for 
Europe, based on Gandhi’s latest writings.) 

.... “It’s no use shutting Gandhi up in a prison, his 
spirit is and always will be present among those who know 
him — like the spirit of the Man who came to sit at table 
with his disciples in Emmaus. You will bear the reflection 
of his halo upon you for the whole of your life. Pass it 

157. Extract from Romain Rolland 5 s Diary 

19 September 2PJ6>.-Visited by Sir J. C. Bose. . . . He 
is entirely possessed and consumed by the thought of India 
and her struggles. He can think of nothing else. All his 
work has stopped, and during the two hours we spend 
together, India is the sole object of our conversation. . . . 
He expresses himself with pessimism and care. He knows 
that India will win, but he thinks of the overwhelming suffer- 
ing, both today and tomorrow. He sees India without arms, 
without instruction, cruelly oppressed, gagged and blinded 
by England, and he wonders what will become of her after 
the death of the two great statesmen in whom he has placed 
his trust: Gandhi and Motilal Nehru (who is very ill). 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


158. Romain Rolland’s Message on Gandhi’s Birthday 1 

Villeneuve, Lake Geneva 
1 October 1930 

Gandhi, for us, is not only the heroic guide of his im- 
mense people claiming its liberty — and about to take it. 
He is the surest, the purest spiritual light shining in the 
dark skies of our time. Amidst the tempests in which the 
sinking ship of our civilization risks vanishing with all its 
cargo, he is the star that shows us the way — the only way 
still open that leads to salvation. 

This way is within us. It is the supreme energy, the 
energy of heroic non-acceptance. It is the refusal hurled 
by the proud soul against injustice and violence. It is the 
revolution of the spirit. 

This revolution does not breed opposition between 
races, classes, nations and religions; it brings them to- 
gether. It awakens in every man the deep fire of the One 
Soul, which made humanity rise from the void into which 
in its madness it now aspires to return. It reminds the 
Christians of how to be Christians (which they no longer are 
except in form); it reminds the “free spirits” how to be 
free (which they no longer are except in empty speeches 
which mask their servility) ; it reminds all men how to respect 
in each other equal sons of the same Father — the same 
Dei Optimi Maximi — the spirit of light and love, who, as on 
the first days, c ‘when darkness was upon the jace of the deep ”, 
(as it still is today) “ moved on the face of the waters ” 

1 Text sent to Reginald Reynolds for publication on the occasion 
of Gandhi’s birthday. 


Remain Roll and and Gandlii : Correspondence 

159. Gandhi to Madeleine Slade 

3 January 1931 

.... I was sorry to learn about Romain Rolland’s 
health. Do please send him my love and tell him I often 
think of him and pray that he may be long spared in the 
service of humanity. . . . 

160. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland 1 

Telegram postmarked 5 January 1931 

Rolland Villeneuve Vaud 

Is convalescence satisfactory 


161. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland 2 

Telegram postmarked 
Rolland Villeneuve Vaud 
Thanksgiving Love 

6 January 1931 


1,2 Romain Rolland had been very ill in December 1930 These 
two telegrams are certainly replies to letters and telegrams from Made- 
leine Rolland which have not been found. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 

143 . 

162. Gandhi to Premabehn Kantak 

Yeravda Manddr 
January 11, 1931 

Chi. Prema, 

I was glad that prayers were offered for Rolland. 
Even apart from his relation with me, his sincerity draws 
one towards him. . . . 

Blessings from 

163. Gandhi to Madeleine Slade 

January 12, 1931 

.... I have your letter and the post card. Let us 
thank God that Rolland is quite out of the wood. The world 
needs him for many years yet. His work, so far as we 
can see, is not finished. Please send him my loving regards 
and say he must hold on for a while. Premabehn has des- 
cribed to me the prayer you had for his recovery. I do not 
know that these prayers add a single second to the life 
prayed for. But they elevate those who pray and comfort 
those for whom the prayers are offered. The comfort has 
the appearance of prolongation of life. 



Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

164. Gandhi to Madeleine Slade 


July 19, 1931 

.... I followed your advice and read the introduc- 
tion 1 in the “library ”. 2 The original must be very good. I 
marvel at the immense industry that Romain Rolland gives 
to all he writes. The introduction is another sketch like the 
one he wrote before, bringing his opinion up to date. . . . 


165. Gandhi to Romain Rolland 

August 15, 1931 

Dear Friend, 

I had your most affectionate letter . 3 How I would 
have loved to see you if I had gone to England, but it was 
not to be. I feel that it was God’s will that I should 
not go. But I am not yet without hope that some day, 
somehow we shall meet in the flesh. 

Yours sincerely, 
M. K. Gandhi 

1 By Romain Rolland to the abridged French edition of An 

2 Gandhiji means “lavatory”. 

3 This letter has not been found- 

165. Gandhi to Romain Rolland 1 

Telegram postmarked: Lugano 
31 August 1931 

1568 Rajputana Schveningenradio 103 19 31/8 1310 
Marseilles eleventh morning will health permit you meet 
and travel Calais — Gandhi 

167. Extract from Romain RoUand’s Diary 

September 1931.— We reply by cable 2 that we shall try to 
join him at Dijon and travel together from Dijon to Paris. 

168. Gandhi to Romain Rolland 

Telegram postmarked 7 September 1931 
Handed in 6 September 1931 Cairo 

Rolland, Villeneuve Vaud 

Following from Suez stop special reaches Dijon after 
midnight could you not come Marseilles where we reach 
early morning stopping seven hours trust health will per- 
mit you travel but in no case will I leave Europe with- 
out seeing you therefore would not like you endanger your 
health shall be delighted any case see your sister Marseil- 
les if possible. 


1 This telegram was sent on from Villeneuve to Lugano, where 
Romain Rolland was staying at the time. 

2 The text of this cable from Romain Rolland to Gandhi is missing. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

169. Extract from Remain Rolland’s Diary 

September 1931. -Gandhi cables me from his ship, the 
Rajputana, which left Bombay on 29 August, that he is 
arriving at Marseilles on 11 September, and he hopes 
we can meet him on the train journey between Marseilles 
and Calais. Having been delayed a fortnight by his tergiver- 
sations and discussions with the Viceroy of India, all he has 
time to do is to go directly to London for the opening 
of the Round Table Conferences. He cannot stop at Villen- 

We reply by cable that we shall try to join him at Dijon 
and travel together from Dijon to Paris. But another cable 
from him, very long and affectionate, says that the train 
will not pass through Dijon until after midnight, and it 
would be better, if my health permits, if we came to 
Marseilles, where we would have seven hours to talk bet- 
ween the arrival of the liner and the departure of the special 
train, the Bombay Express. He adds that in any case he 
will not leave Europe without coming to see me. 

170. Romain Rolland to Gandhi 

Telegram Mahatma Gandhi on Board Rajputana 

10 September 1931 

My sister and our friends Privat meeting you ar- 
riving Marseilles Tuesday Hotel de Geneve 

Letters^ Diary Extracts 


171. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

September 1931 .— Being unable to go to Marseilles myself* 
I give my -sister the following message for Gandhi (10 
September) : 


10 September 1931 

My dear Friend, it grieves me that I cannot come with 
my sister and greet you as you arrive on European soil, 
but my health does not allow it. I came back from Lugano 
to Villeneuve planning to go on to Marseilles, but on 
returning from a sunny to a rainy climate I caught a chill 
again, and I have to spend these few days shut up in the 
Villa Olga. I hope you will be able to come here later 
on, on the way back to India — so that we shall meet in 
this life. 

My thoughts go with you on your noble and arduous 
mission to London. I should like to believe in the political 
wisdom of the men who govern the British Empire, and I 
hope they will be able to reach an understanding with you 
and with India which it will not be given to them to 
achieve later if they miss this last chance of agreement. 
But what seems to me no less essential is that you 
should maintain your close intellectual contact with the 
people — the people of India and the oppressed peoples of 
the world — so that they always recognize in you their just 
and staunch champion who speaks for them and surren- 
ders none of their rights. Their faith in you, their moral 
solidarity with you, is the salvation of humanity in these 
troubled times when violence is everywhere on the point of 
bursting the last barriers restraining it. It will seek every 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

chance to create misunderstandings between you and the 
masses in revolt, so as to drag them along in its torrent. 
For those of us in Europe, for the free and disinterested men 
observing this vigil before the combat, there is no hope but 
in a complete renewal of the social order, replacing the 
capitalist imperialism which would subjugate nations body 
and soul, by a sovereign organization of labour. The whole 
question for us now is to see that this inevitable revolution 
is carried out by non-violence and by love and is not left 
to the blind forces of hatred, which would breathe destruc- 
tion over the whole world- For these coming conflicts, you 
are our acknowledged and proven general. Even if you 
were to die in the thick of the battle, your example would 
still remain as a guide to us. This is why nothing must 
shake our union; let us bind it still closer! When you are 
in London, in your negotiations with the Empire, feel your- 
self strong with the strength of the people — the people of 
Europe as well as of India — whose voice and whose high- 
est conscience you are! The best of Europe is with you. 
I greet you with affection and respect. 

Romain Rolland 

172. Gandhi to Romain Rolland 

Telegram postmark Vilhneuve 11 September 1931 
Handed in at Marseilles 15-52h. Received 17-0 5h. 

Romain Rolland 
Villeneuve Suisse 

Sorry to miss you but glad you did not take any risk de- 
lighted see your sister and friends Privat love from whole 
party hope see you early 


Letters, Diary Extracts 


173. Gaadhi’s Interview to Th p J\'ezv ‘Toil: Times 


September 77, 1931 

The only engagement I have made is in the nature of 
pilgrimage. I have promised to visit my friend, Romain 
Rolland, the celebrated French writer, who is lying sick 
at his home near Territet, Switzerland, and whose sister, 
Medeleine Rolland, was among the old friends who greeted 
me on my arrival at Marseilles. 

174. Gandhi’s Speech at Meeting of 
Students, Marseilles 1 

September 17, 1931 

Since I visited France as a student to see the Exhibi- 
tion held at Paris in 1890, some greater and more perma- 
nent link betwen you and me have been formed. The for- 
ger of these links is your own distinguished countryman 
Romain Rolland who constituted himself an interpreter 
of the humble message that I have been trying to deliver 
to my countrymen for the last 30 years or more. 

1 The meeting was orgamzed by the Association of the present and 
past students of Marseilles to honour the ‘‘spiritual ambassador of 
India”. The report has been extracted from Mahadev Desai’s “London 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

175. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

13 September 1952. -Visited by an aristocratic Indian in- 
tellectual with a handsome light-coloured turban, P. Sesha- 
dri, head of the University of Agra and Professor of Eng- 
lish literature. 

.... This distinguished man can scarcely conceal 
his resentment (and scorn) for Gandhi, who has so little es- 
teem for literature and whose magical ascendency is divert- 
ing all present spiritual energies in India towards -national 

176. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

September 1931 - Since I cannot go to Marseilles, I give 
my sister a message for Gandhi (10 September). 

My sister and the Privats are there, on Friday 11 Sep- 
tember at 6 o’clock in the morning, on the mole at Marseil- 
les, for the arrival of the liner Rajputana which carries Gan- 
dhi and his companions. Despite the unprecedented swarm 
of journalists and photographers, my sister is immediately 
introduced to Gandhi’s presence, thanks to Andrews and 
Miss Slade, and he shows himself extremely affectionate. 
They are privileged to stay wiih him in his narrow 2nd class 
cabin, seated on the same bunk, for four hours, from 7 
to 11 a.m., while he receives the journalists and official dele- 
gates. She (and the Privats) retain from those unique 
moments an impression of unreserved admiration and love 
(and yet my sister 'has a critical mind and sees clearly). 
Gandhi seems to be in marvellous physical and moral form; 
calm, attentive, smiling or laughing through the gaps m 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


his teeth, always simple, honest, spontaneous and reflective 
at the same time, in control of himself, his very sharp and 
precise gaze going right through people and penetrating all 
their deviousness at first glance. Mirabehn (Miss Slade) 
also commands admiration by her regal dignity. Both are 
good enough to think affectionately of their absent friend 
in Villeneuve, to whom Gandhi refers in his speech to the 
students of Marseilles. (Though the Paris press is care- 
ful to efface this tribute and all reference to my name from 
their reports.) And Gandhi sends me a telegram at 3 o’clock 
in the afternoon, before leaving for Calais by the Bombay 
Express, promising to come and see me. 

177. Extract from Remain Rolland’s Diary 

September 1931.-1 mpressions of Gandhi from my sister 
and the Privats. He is small, with a well-shaped head, not 
bald but shaven bare; ugly and likeable (in the end he 
appears charming), a receding brow, a large turned-up 
nose, a more or less toothless mouth (which is normally 
closed, but when he laughs, he shows off the gap in his 
front teeth, and the Privats ended up by finding this made 
his laughter all the more irresistible), — his complexion not 
very dark, almost European, — very sharp eyes behind a 
large pair of glasses, which look at you full in the face 
and see right through you, — much mischief and humour, 
immediately followed by great seriousness and concentra- 
tion, — a very good voice, grave and tenor (without Tagore’s 
lofty intonations, but he makes an effort to keep it on a 
medium level, calm, even and without inflexions); he han- 
dles the English language with purity and perfection, with- 
out ever correcting himself and without stumbling; each of 
his sentences is thought out and says exactly what he wants 
to say. He is well built, quite broad and strong in the chest 


Romain. Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

and the upper arms, with refined and cool hands. But his 
forearms and above all his legs are extremely skinny (per- 
haps as a result of the Indian habit of sitting cross-legged) : 
for the last two years, he says, he has not been able to 
speak in public in anything other than a sitting position. 
Meticulously clean (as are all in his entourage). No detail 
escapes him. 

Privat says: “I was afraid I’d be meeting a ‘man of 
God’, a preacher or a visionary. But I met a Socrates. It was 
Socrates that he most reminded me of. (Particularly in 

As if quite unconsciously, he says some outrageous things 
— turning the whole world upside down. Scolding an Eng- 
lish journalist, Slochum, for falsely attributing to him a 
loyalist attitude leading him to bow down before the 
Prince of Wales, he says: “I have nothing at all against 
that young man. Personally I wish him well. ... If I 
meet an ant, I look at it with sympathy, I do not seek to 
crush it; but I do not go and bow down before it!” (All 
this in the most gentle and natural of tones.) My sister hears 
it and thinks she must have been dreaming. Slochum yields 
and takes it in good part. 

Also characteristic was the scene at the reception of the 
British Consul’s representative, who had arrived by air 
from London to bear Gandhi a letter from the Ministry 
bidding him welcome and asking him what preparations 
he wanted for his arrival. Gandhi made him wait his turn, 
after the interviews he had agreed to give (5 minutes each: 
he is forever pulling his big watch out of his belt to check) ; 
and when he came in, Gandhi scarcely bothered to get 
up to greet him; the little Consul, affected, ridiculous, em- 
barrassed and talkative, carried on paying drawing-room 
courtesies to everyone present while Gandhi, quietly and 
very seriously, slowly read the letter, weighing up every 
term in it, then dismissed his visitor, saying he would 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


think about it and let him have his reply before midday. 

He firmly, clearly and severely refused to be present 
at the banquet prepared for him; allowing his suite to go if 
they wanted, he himself made his escape, and for an hour 
no one knew where he was; it later transpired from an eye- 
witness account that he went in search of some of the 
Marseilles dockers on the ship. They conversed by gestures 
and grimaces. After that he was in a delighted mood, as he 
always is when he can make contact with the people: they 
for their part, slapped their chests and said: “Now there’s 
a man with his heart in the right place, a real Communist.” 

During the three or four hours he spent sitting in his 
cabin — my sister on his left — receiving the interviewers or 
official delegates, the door occasionally opened slightly 
and some Hindu Lascar from the ship slipped in to feast 
his eyes on him in silence, then come closer, take his hand 
between his own without a word and withdraw, after carry- 
ing his right hand to his heart or his mouth, or else, more 
timidly, stayed in a corner for a few minutes to contemplate 
him in ecstasy — then go away. More than twenty people 
came and went in this way; this was not the least moving 
thing that happened. 

178. Madeleine Slade to Romain Holland 

Kingsley HalU 
London E. 3 

29 - 9-31 

Beloved revered Brother, 

.... I now have your letter 1 enclosing one with regard 
to Bapu touring in the south of Germany and other places. 
Would that it could be! He would love to meet and talk 

1 This letter has not been found. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

with those eager souls. But who knows what may be pos- 
sible? There is only a faint chance. 

When I read the beautiful words you write to me at 
the end of your letter, I feel overwhelmed. The greater 
the divine joy of life in Bapu’s guidance (and it is ever 
swelling), the deeper and the more unforgettable becomes 
my gratitude to him through whom I found that Path. 

When we shall be able to come to Villeneuve is still 
unknown. The struggle here is long and hard. But as soon 
as ever Bapu can get free his first move will be to come, at 
last, to you. 

Yours in deep affection, 


179. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland 

Kingsley Hall 
London E 3 

2 - 10-31 

Beloved Friend, 

We share with you the anxiety regarding Bapu’s Eur- 
opean tour. I hope very much that we shall come first to 
Villeneuve, and talk things over before launching forth. 

.... It never has been, and never will, in this world, be 
possible for me to express all I feel for you in words, all you 
have been and are to me, and the love and thankfulness 
with which I cherish every memory and thought of you. 

But though I cannot express myself, I know that you 
must know what is in my heart, for love needs no words. 

The expectation of the now fast approaching moment 
when I may again look into those eyes which led me to the 
light is ever welling up within me. 

Your ever devoted, 


Letters, Diary Extracts 


180. Madeleine Slade to Romain Holland 

Telegram postmarked 18-10-1031 Sellyoak 
Rolland Villeneuve Vaud 

Bapu seriously contemplating European tour stop 
calling group of friends immediately confer possible pro- 
gramme stop would Privat like attend stop wri tin g 


181. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland 

Telegram No postmark October 1931 London 
Rolland Villeneuve Vaud 

Obliged abandon continental tour stop hope arrive 
Villeneuve end month for two three days writing 


182. Gandhi to Romain Rolland 

18 October 1931 

Dear Friend, 

I was grieved to learn from your letter to Mira that 
Birukoff was no more. Through Sundaram now I have 
a beautiful note from him. This was written just before 
his death. Will you please convey to his widow my respect- 
ful condolences and tell her how grieved I am that the 
cruel hand of death has deprived me of the pleasure of 
meeting one who knew Tolstoy so intimately. 


Romain Holland and GandM : Correspondence 

Hoping to meet you soon, 

Yours sincerely, 
M. K. Gandhi 

183. Extract From Romain Holland’ s Diary 

November 1931.-I must transcribe the following letter 
which I am sending to Gandhi in London, through Mira, 
his disciple and my dear friend. 

9 November 1931 

My dear sister Mira, 

Many loving thanks for your letters, which go to my 
heart. I am touched by your memories of me; my memo- 
ries of you, in return, are among those very rare ones which 
bring holiness into my life. This life of mine has been 
remarkably troubled and disarrayed by all the winds that 
blow, both within and without, and it is only by will-power 
that I have held my frail barque on a straight course, assailed 
from all sides and suspended between Pascal’s two abysms: 
the Void and the All, which are perhaps the two faces of 
the One. In this tragic passage — not mine alone, but that 
of a whole age of humanity — my guide has been the stars 
whose light penetrates the clouds; Mahatmaji is one of 
those stars, and you are one of the rays linking my eyes 
to his. Thanks to you, it is as if I were in permanent con- 
tact with them. I see in your last letter how greatly your 
plan to travel in Europe is threatened. I understand only 
too well the commanding reasons which may force Gandhi 
to hurry home, and I have always foreseen and feared this 
possibility. If this is the way things go, one can only regret- 
fully bow to the inevitable; I should certainly not allow 
any egoistic considerations of mine to enter into the decision. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


I should merely like to make Mahatmaji aware, through 
you, how critical the present hour is. both in a social and 
moral sense, for Europe and hence for the whole world — 
Asia, and even India, whose destinies are strongly condi- 
tioned by those of Europe. The spiritual crisis— -that which 

faces the best souls, who wish to aci and to serve — has 

reached a critical point in Europe. After twelve years 'since 
the peace) of gropings and hesitations, most of us have 
come to accept that the maintenance of the existing social 
state in the whole of the West (in its broadest sense, as 
far as the Russian frontier and including America) is 
impossible. This social state is corrupted to its roots, and it 

generates ever more venomous injustices; it must be tho- 

roughly cleansed and transformed. On this, non-resisters, 
pacifists, Quakers and Communist revolutionaries are in 
agreement. (Some shout it from the roof-tops: others whis- 
per it.) But when we move from the problem of thought to 
action, total confusion reigns in people’s minds. The races of 
Europe, more divided amongst themselves than those of 
India by prejudices and conflicts artificially maintained for 
a thousand years or more, find themselves confronted by 
a common enemy, infinitely more dangerous and harder to 
fight against than the enemy with whom you in India are 
about to grapple. For our enemy is almost impossible to 
grasp, and has no name. It is not a foreign master, creep- 
ing in like a maggot under a nation’s skin, nor is it a 
national master, with whom one can, and must, settle 
accounts man to man. It is an international combination of 
capitalist interests and enterprises, secretly including the 
great industrial and commercial tycoons of a whole bloc of 
nations (even nations officially hostile to each other, like 
France and Germany) and spreading its net o\er the whole 
world. For twenty or thirty years now' it has been work- 
ing in the shadow's. Its intrigues in the pre-war years have 
been precisely traced, and during the war it strengthened 


Romain Roiland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

its position in monstrous fashion, as revealed by a large 
number of publications and even public revelations in 
parliamentary debates — subsequently strangled and stifled 
by occult financial powers. During the war, national poli- 
cies and even, in some circumstances (such as the Briey 
mining basin in Lorraine), troop movements were sub- 
ordinated to them. In the last twelve years their supremacy 
has become established; most national governments on the 
continent are no more than screens for their activities, and 
nearly all the European press is subject to them. How can 
one fight? Pacifist organizations are senile almost as soon as 
they are bom; they waste all their energy, most of which 
is merely verbal anyway, against false targets; for the hidden 
masters of politics and the shady international businessmen 
use peace as well as war, one after another, to serve their 
profits and their domination. The non-resisters, the con- 
scientious objectors, are all too often isolated individuals, 
widely separated; and apart from an elite, they lack a 
sufficiently deeply rooted religious conscience; they may 
perhaps save their own skins (and even that I doubt), or, at 
best, their souls. But to save yow own soul is not enough; 
if you don’t give other people efficient help in saving theirs, 
you don’t save your soul; you lose it. They need to orga- 
nize themselves in a severe, “military” way, as you have 
done in India, and it isn’t happening; they haven’t even 
started! And yet time is pressing. We can no longer count 
as we used to do on the slow evolutionary rhythm of events. 
The same accelerated movement which carries along the 
European machine-age and its inventions is also arousing 
peoples and states. A social conflict or a world war which in 
the past would have taken decades or a half-centuries to 
ripen now takes shape, swells and erupts like an abscess in 
a few years. Resistance and defence must be just as prompt 
— and, if necessary, as overwhelming — as the attack. 

What sort of resistance can we envisage? The revolu- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


tionaries of Europe have their direct way, brutal and im- 
mediate. The “non-resisters 55 of Europe have nothing but 
their isolated and sporadic refusals. Many of them know 
this, and are troubled by it. They are bound to be attracted 
by the Revolution, and they will enter into it without any 
methods of their own to hold up against it. Thus they are 
bound to be submerged. 

I wanted to set out the main features of this crisis in 
my letter (for Gandhi through you, Mira), in case we don't 
have the time to speak of it personally. I’m sure Gandhi 
already senses this crisis, but it may be of use for me to 
w r rite it down for him during his last days in Europe, when 
he’s bound to be closer to it in spirit — and before he becomes 
totally absorbed again in his great Indian movement. . . . 

184. Romain Holland to N. S. R. lyangar 

Villeneuve Vaud, Switzerland 
28 November 1931 

.... Thank you for your letter of 14- November. 
I’m sorry', but I cannot write anything new on Gandhi 
and the Hindu cause. I have too many other things to do. 
and in any case I have already published enough works and 
articles on the question. 

I recommend you to make some use for your publi- 
cation of my long introduction to the French edition of 
Gandhi’s La jeune Inde , Editions Stock, Paris, or the pre- 
face I published this year to the French edition of Gandhi's 
Autobiography, ed. Rieder, Paris. 

.... P.S. As to your request concerning the trans- 
lation of my book on Gandhi, I know’ it has appeared in 
India in several dialects, and you would do well to check 
what the situation is. All the royalties due to me in India 
for books about Gandhi and the Gandhist movement are 
to be paid in my name to the Sabarmati Ashram. . . . 


Remain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

185. Madeleine Slade to Romam Holland 

Telegram ( postmarked 28 November 1931 , London ) 
Holland Villeneuve Vaud 

Departure postponed arriving Villeneuve definitely 
sixth evening and leaving eleventh evening stop please 
decide with Madame Guieysse best date Geneva meeting 


186. Madeleine Slade to Remain Holland 

Telegram ( postmarked 29 November 1931 , London ) 
Rolland Villeneuve Vaud 

Gan you reserve three rooms sixth to eleventh pension 
Rosset otherwise hotel du Port for friends 


187. Madeleine Slade and Mahadev Desai 
to Remain Rolland 

Telegram ( postmarked 30 November 1931 ? London) 
Rolland Villeneuve Vaud 

Re private telegrams if you think workers and inter- 
national meeting should both be organized Lausanne best 
datelTuesday Bapu agrees 

Mira Mahadev 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


188. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland 

Telegram ( postmarked 1 December 1931 y London ) 
Rolland Villeneuve Vaud 

Bapa’s cold disappeared and health good love 


189. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland 

Telegram ( postmarked 4 December 1931 , London) 
Holland Villeneuve Vaud 

Please reserve two more rooms hotel du Port love 


190. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland 

Telegram (j postmarked 5 December 1931 , London ) 

Holland Villeneuve Vaud 

Will not settle Italy till after discussion 
Villeneuve love 



Romain Roiland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

191. Romain Roiland to P. N. Natarajan 

Villeneuve Villa Olga 
Saturday , 5 December 1931 

.... I do not doubt that Gandhi will be pleased 
to receive you, but I cannot commit him to anything. As 
soon as he arrives (tomorrow, Sunday, in the evening) I 
shall pass on your request, and I expect he will fix a date 
and time for a meeting. (He is staying at Villeneuve from 
the 6th to the 11th). In any case I know already that he 
is setting aside a period each day to meet people, from 
eleven till midday. . . . 

192. Extract from Gandhi’s Diary 

Villeneuve , December 6, Sunday.— Spun 167 rounds. Left 
Paris in the morning. Muriel stayed behind. Arrived at 
Villeneuve in the evening. Meeting with Roiland, with 

Villeneuve , December 7, Monday. -Spun 185 rounds. From 
10 to 12-30 with Roiland. Did not go for a walk in the 
morning because of the rain but had sound sleep. . . . 
When the sun appeared in the afternoon, I went for a stroll. 
Wrote letters to Hoare in the evening. Gable from Vallabh- 
bhai; replied to it. Gable to Sir Jagdish Bose, to Ghose. 

Villeneuve, December 8, Tuesday.- Spun 170 ro un ds. Spent 
two and half hours in the morning with Roiland. Three meet- 
ings in the afternoon in Lausanne. Returned at midnight. 

Villeneuve , December 9, Wednesday.— Spun 1 60 rounds. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Visited a poor woman’s house and International Sanatorium; 
held prayers at Romain Roll and’ s house. Presented a 
shawl from Madame Cama to Madeleine Rolland. 

Villeneuve, December 10, Thursday. Spun 204 rounds. 
Meeing in Geneva, talks with Rolland, speech at a Chil- 
lon School, talk with Toma, talk with the Arabs. 

On way to Rome , December 11, Friday .-Spun 178 rounds. 
Talk with Rolland; Sir Cowasji met me. Left Villeneuve 
at 2-30. Girls from Indu’s school called. Was provided a 
State car in Milan. Large crowds had gathered on the 

193. Extract from Romain Rolland 9 s Diary 

December ISW.-This is the time when we at last receive 
the long-promised visit from Gandhi. It was delayed a 
month or two by the slow proceedings of the Round Table 
Conference. (And these delays have played their part as well 
in my sister’s state of nervous exhaustion; she would have 
preferred to leave Villeneuve long ago.) Many letters and 
telegrams exchanged with London through Mira (Miss 
Slade). We also have to defend ourselves against a shower 
of letters, telephone calls and requests of all sorts provoked 
by Gandhi’s announced arrival. Some of them are strange, 
some absurd, some completely crazy. (An Italian lady 
writes to Gandhi through me to ask him the ten winning 
numbers in the next Lotto. . . . ) The Swiss German 
“nudists” (Werner Zimmermann) want to corner Gandhi, 
and he has to be protected. Disturbed minds and “Sons of 
God” emerge from the earth like snails. Nice young 
people offer to come at night and play little tunes on the 
flute or the violin under the Mahatma’s window. The local 
dairymen’s union telephone officiously to say that they hope 
to be “purveyors to the king of India” during his stay 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

The press agencies set up camp around the villa, the Lau- 
sanne police authorities get worried, and the Villeneuve 
hotels are full of c ‘undesirables 3 ? coming to look at the strange 
guest. I offer the young Japanese sculptor Takata the where- 
withal to come from Paris to see and sketch Gandhi. 

Gandhi leaves London on Saturday 5 December, spends 
the evening in Paris where he addresses a meeting at 
Magic City and stays with our friend Louise tte Guieysse. 
He sets out on Sunday morning for Territet, where he 
arrives at 6 p.m., in the dark, and in bad weather; my health 
does not permit me to go to meet him. 

(I am scarcely able to leave the house once during the 
whole time that he is my guest, except to take him to Villen- 
euve station the day he leaves.) But Edmond Privat and 
his wife go as far as Paris to escort him, and my sister is 
waiting for him on Territet station. For the whole of the 
Swiss part of the journey, from Vallorbe, he is feted. Here, 
Dr. Niehans and Dr. Perret have made their cars available for 
him for the whole period of his stay. (But he makes little or 
no use of them, as he always tries to take the simplest means 
of transport available, which is third class on the railways.) 

Our villas form an enclave in Byron Park, which now 
belongs to an English school (Chillon College) full of highly 
imperialist young bourgeois. (There have been noisy cele- 
brations recently of the Labour Party’s defeat in the elec- 
tions.) Three quarters of an hour before the arrival, these 
young gentlemen assemble along the roadside and indulge 
in various demonstrations of bantering and mocking cha- 
racter. Fortunately the Swiss crowd invading the park and 
the photographers with their magnesium flash force the young 
Englishmen to be careful, and when the Mahatma finally 
arrives nothing worse is heard than a few voices in a well- 
shaded corner at the bottom of the slope, intoning a not 
very harmonious God save the King l (Next day the young 
gentlemen are told off in their school, so thoroughly that 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


they can be seen hanging round the villa with respectful 
curiosity, with a new sense of the importance of the Indian 
guest. Even their headmaster, Mr. Pym, comes to ask to be 
received, and invited Gandhi to speak at the school, which 
Gandhi does on the -evening before his departure.) 

Waiting on the threshold of the Villa Lionnette, in 
the dark, the rain and the poor light of our electric lamps, 
I finally see the little man arriving in his white burnous, 
bare-headed under the drizzling rain, his bare legs skinny 
and stilt-like, bespectacled, toothless and laughing — he 
always laughs nervously each time he comes to see me; it's like 
a welcome greeting — as he makes the Indian gesture of reve- 
rence : hands joined and raised to the height of the mouth. 
He rests his cheek against my shoulder and puts his right 
arm round me; I feel against my cheek his grey head with 
its shaven pate and its rough, moist skin — the kiss of St. 
Dominic and St. Francis. Mira follows — the noble features 
and august bearing of Demeter. Then three Indians: the 
two secretaries, Mahadev Desai and Pyarelal, and a young 
son of Gandhi, Devdas. (He is 30, but could pass for less 
than 20; his face is round and happy.) We go up to the 
first floor where we have prepared for Gandhi the room 
with a terrace to the front of the house, with three windows, 
one overlooking the Rhone valley and the Dent du Midi, 
the other two (window and door) overlooking the Villa 
Olga and the Lake of Geneva. Almost at once, after 
exchanging a few words, Gandhi and the Indians sit cross- 
legged on the floor — my sister and I on chairs — the electric 
light is switched off and they say their 7 o’clock prayers. 1 
Each day they consist of a series of three chants; ancient 
hymns with Sanskrit texts which Gandhi has translated into 
Hindi (the first is taken from the Gita), always concluding 
with the same canticle to Rama and Sita, intoned by 

1 Gandhi and his followers pray again at ( ?} 3 a.m. 


Romain Roll and and GandM : Correspondence 

Mira’s' grave, warm voice and repeated in refrain by the 
gathered company. 

Of the other two, the first is very much like the old 
Gregorian chant; the second, much more ornamented, with 
aspirated and vocalized nasal sounds, is of the same race 
but more oriental-sounding; only a trained Indian can sing 
it (Mira tells me that she has never succeeded). These fine 
recitatives, calmly unfolding in the night, are separated and 
followed by periods of absolute silence, the last being the 
longest; then quietly Gandhi gives the order to put on the 
light, and conversation is resumed. It could be an im- 
pressive effect; but though I appreciate the beauty of the 
chants, I feel foreign and detached: whether they are Hindu 
or Christian, these ritual prayers to the divinity are no 
longer for me. They merely accentuate my sense of iso- 

We leave Gandhi to his supper (about forty dates, raw 
vegetables, goat’s milk) and fix a time for tomorrow morn- 
ing. He insists that we should meet in my house, in the 
Villa Olga, to save me the trouble of crossing the garden. 
Mira and the Indians come to share our supper. (They 
too are vegetarians, but less rigorously so; no eggs or cheese, 
but they eat cooked vegetables and noodles.) The telephone 
keeps ringing from one end of the evening to the other, 
and Macha will have a lot to do. 

The next day, Monday, is Gandhi’s “silence day”. He 
says nothing, but he listens; he jokingly says that it’s the 
best moment for other people to make him listen to anything 
they want him to hear. He has to sit through everything 
without replying (there is just one concession; he allows 
himself to give some short written answers). He arrives 
punctually at 10 in the morning, having slept, unusually for 
him, until 8 o’clock. (In London he allowed only three or 
four hours’ sleep each night for himself and his followers; 
they would come home at 1 o’clock in the morning and get 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


up again at 3 for prayers. Thus they are all visibly very 
tired — Gandhi himself the least of them. In addition 
Gandhi caught a bad cold in London's November fogs; 
but his solid constitution very soon overcame it without it 
interrupting his business or his meetings.' So he comes up 
my stairs, heralded by his jerky little laugh, and I settle 
him in the large folding armchair near my table; I am 
resting my elbows on the table and leaning towards him from 
my swivelling desk armchair. He at once takes his bare 
feet out of his sandals and folds his legs under him, sur- 
rounding himself with his burnous. He is wearing his 
broad spectacles, whose lenses consist of ttvo half-moons 
framed together for distant and close vision at the same 
time. His complexion is weathered rather than dark, bron- 
zed by the sun. The profile of his head is elongated, and the 
impression is accentuated by his missing front teeth which 
reduce his jaw to something like a rat’s muzzle ; his lower 
lip is rather large and protruding, and his upper lip bears a 
thin grey moustache. His nose is straight, a little sunk, and 
crushed at the end with his broad nostrils. His ears stick 
out considerably. His brow is broad and well-formed; deep 
wrinkles become visible when he is speaking, but his cheeks 
and the rest of his face are of strong substance and show 
no signs of the network of wrinkles usually seen on Euro- 
pean faces. The first impression he gives of fragility is de- 
ceptive; his constitution is solid. His large, skinny hands, 
clutching at the burnous on his arms, are all bones and pro- 
truding, swollen veins and muscles. Their perpetual twitch- 
ing (together with what one can sense of his feet under the 
burnous) reveals to me the underlying nervousness of this 
calm and always self-controlled (though lively^ man. (Mira 
later confirms this impression. She tells me how hypersensi- 
tive his body is, under the control of his mind. When she 
massages his legs, for all the tender care she puts into the 
task, the least grain in the oil rolled under her fingers causes 


Romain RollancI and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Gandhi a litde twinge of repressed pain.) Present at the 
conversation are my sister who does the translating (Gan- 
dhi speaks and understands only English), Mira sitting on 
the carpet at our feet, Gandhi’s two secretaries taking notes 
(and from the second conversation, Macha, who also takes 
down everything said, for me). 

On the first day, as I said, I am the only one to speak. 
I tell Gandhi at some length about the moral and social state 
of continental Europe, and France in particular. I go back 
briefly to the period of 1900-1914, to explain the double bank- 
ruptcy during and after the war of the so-called realists (the 
politicians) and the idealists, symbolized by the final failure 
of both Clemenceau and Wilson — hence the bitter disillusion- 
ment of the following generations. I show him the true 
hidden face of politics, which we began to suspect only 
about the middle of the war: Money, the great adventurers 
and industrial tycoons (Zaharoff, Deterding), the inter- 
national trusts and cartels, — and their daily growing supre- 
macy over the nation states, and over public opinion through 
the press which they control. I give some of the more 
striking examples: the Comite des Forges, the Briey affair 
during the war, the steelworks, the oil and petrol companies, 
the Hugenberg-Reynaud negotiations, the worst kind of 
war-mongering nationalism stimulated and made drunk 
by business internationalism. I consider what form of op- 
position may today be set up against this cancer, gnawing 
at the West and America, and seeking to eat away the rest 
of the world. The democracies have no means of defending 
themselves: Money has corrupted them to the core, bribed, 
divided and emasculated them. Fascist movements (an 
understandable reaction) are themselves toys in the hands 
of Money; for instance Mussolini and America. As to the 
Christian and Gandhian non-resisters, if they are to be 
organized, it must be understood that the question is no 
longer merely one of warfare. War, in the West, has become 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


the lesser danger. It is in the interest of robbers to make 
mutual agreements at everyone else’s expense. The masy.s 
need to be aroused against the exploitation of the rest of 
the world, and to do this will be much more difficult than it 
would be to unite them against an immediate danger touch- 
ing them closely, such as war in their own land. It suits 
people’s egoism and apathy that peace should be assured in 
Western and Central Europe at the expense of other races. 
The only really effective non-resistance would be in the 
factories and the arsenals, that of the working proletanat. 
This is the only significant opponent that can be set 
against the faceless octopus of Money. It has on its side its 
weight of numbers, its vigour as yet untapped, the very in- 
justice which crushes it and the moral force coming from 
the sense that it alone in the world has interests coinciding 
with justice. Add to that that the progress of mechanization 
has led to the creation of a really superior elite of workers 
harmonizing the activities of both body and mind. This is 
the army standing in the way of the giant capitalism. That 
said, the question arising is one of tactics. The aim is clear: 
the victory of the people, of humanity and of Labour. This 
is the only just and necessary order. By what means can 
it be achieved, non-violent or violent? The best means will 
be the one that actually obtains the just order; so is non- 
violence capable of it? Yes, if applied in the absolute 
and uncompromising spirit represented by you (Gandhi) in 
India. But you would not be able to apply it if there 
w r ere not to be found in India an environment ready to 
receive it, that of a religious people used to Ahimsa for 
centuries. In Europe there is nothing like this. There are 
little islands of Ahimsa, very thinly scattered in Anglo-Saxon, 
Czech and Slavonic territories, but almost non-existent in 
the Latin countries. This is not for lack of religious feel- 
ing, of which there is plenty in the West; but such feeling 
nearly always has the fighting character of a “church militant” ; 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

holy books are deformed by state religions, and in any 
case the texts of these books are not sufficiently precise; they 
gave rise to some scandalous controversies during the war 
years. Above all, the Western spirit is practical by nature, 
short-sighted and directed to short-term aims. When a 
Westerner speaks of progress, he is thinking about tomorrow, 
hardly ever about the distant future, and he needs tactics 
aimed at bringing him victory tomorrow. Now, -what sort 
of adversary is he up against? A growing monster who 
will very soon swallow the whole of humankind, so the work 
must be begun quickly. This is a duel, in which the thrust 
must be parried and anticipated. Gan non-violence do it? 
Lajpat Rai said to us: “I am a champion of non-violence 
in India, for I am sure that it will bring us victory. But I 
would not apply it in Europe.” What does Gandhi think? 
In any case there is one fact before us: since 1917 the work- 
ing proletariat, amid the most terrible sufferings, has found- 
ed a new world strongly armed. This armament was a 
necessity imposed by the old world — by the armed inter- 
vention of four or five Great Powers in Russia, by the perpe- 
tual conspiracies and infernal ruses of financial powers seek- 
ing to ruin the U.S.S.R.; the U.S.S.R. naturally defends 
itself. What can we in the West do? Sit idly by between 
the two camps? Advise the U.S.S.R. to sit idly by? We feel 
that her ruin would ruin the hopes of the whole world. 
Should our labour force go on strike to oppose any action 
against Russia? Yes, but then we must recognize that this 
means insurrection and civil war. You may say that the 
proletarian masses of the West should sacrifice themselves! 
But to what? For that they would need to believe in a good 
God, and they do not; they believe in an ideal, a divinity 
of social justice. This is already a considerable ideal, and 
I object strongly when people try to debase this ideal by 
calling it materialism; it gives rise to the most heroic of 
sacrifices. But these self-sacrifices do not imply non-violence. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


I repeat that the problem is one of practical action, ac- 
tion which must be as efficient and as p ompt as poWbV. 
If obstacles are placed in the way. human os otherwise, they 
must be crushed, without pity as without r.nie r . I 50 on 
to show Gandhi the moral neutrality which characterizes 
Soviet justice: it is never, in principle, meant to be van- 
geance, but h aims to destroy creatures harmful to thr 
community. If such a person ceases to be dangerous, what- 
ever his crime, justice does not take revenue on him 01 kill 
him; it is content to render him harmless, and if pc"ible 
it gives him the means of making himself useful. Lenin had 
no personal hatred, and he had a passionate desire for the 
good cf humanity. He served humanity by the means he 
considered most effective and energetic. It is up to non- 
violence to set up against his tactics not only an ideal, 
which would not be enough, but the value of its achieve- 

Such is, in resume, my statement to Gandhi (omitting 
most of the 1900-1914 preamble), lasting about one and a 
half hours. Gandhi listens to me most attentively, usually 
without looking at me, with his profile turned towards me 
(this allows me to follow all his expressions', preferring to 
look at my sister who translates all I say, but at the principal 
passages he turns his intelligent and intense gaze on me; 
more than once he nods his head vigorously to signify as- 
sent — for instance, when I defend the so-called "material- 
ism” of the Russian masses sacrificing themselves for the 
future good of humanity, which I describe as an idealism 
far superior to that of the pseudo-idealists of the West who 
make no sacrifices to their purely verbal idealism. 

At the end, Gandhi writes on his note-pad that he will 
spend the day thinking about what I said and give me 
his answer tomorrow. I also give him two written ques- 
tions sent to me for him by Monatte’s group of French 
Communist syndicalists; he promises to answer them. I 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

add that I should also like to speak to him about the visit 
he plans to Italy after leaving Villeneuve, but will postpone 
it until another day. He writes in his notebook that he is 
prepared to listen to me now if it suits me. We take a 
five-minute break, during which Gandhi is served with a bowl 
of hot water containing lemon juice ; this is his daily habit, 
every morning at 1 1 o’clock. I take a cup of lime tea. Then 
I take it upon myself to make him aware of the dangers 
awaiting him in Fascist Italy; not aggression, certainly, but 
underhand attempts to annexe him to their cause, as they 
did with Tagore — for there is not a single brutal dictator- 
ship in the world today which does not seek to mask its 
true character hypocritically under the aegis of some pure 
and true idealists. By a few striking examples (Matteotti, 
Amendola) I show him the true face of Fascism, and 
since the Italian Consul in India has transmitted invitations 
to Gandhi from certain cultural groups in Rome, such as 
the Istituto di Cultura presided over by the former minister 
Gentile, I unmask some of the people concerned, starting 
with Gentile himself. Against this Fascist Italy, I show 
him the picture of thousands of oppressed Italians, forced 
to be silent or to lie, and suffering bitterly from their moral 
degradation; I also show him the depressing effect which 
Gandhi’s presence among their oppressors would have on 
them. Whatever Gandhi does, the Italian press, which 
is entirely in Fascist hands, is always sure to be able to ex- 
ploit his presence, without him having any means of reply- 
ing in Italy. I remind him of Tagore, who innocently went 
along to Fascist ceremonies and propaganda without know- 
ing what was going on and thinking he was listening to 
speeches in his honour, and who for his whole stay in Italy 
was rigidly kept away from any elements not under the orders 
of the regime. Gandhi listens and notes it down, and our 
meeting ends shortly after half past twelve. He goes back 
to the Villa Lionnette, bombarded as he goes by the photo- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


graphers, who are spending their days circulating round 
the villas, in the garden and in the surrounding park, 

I forgot to mention that just after the end of the meeting 
my door was, so to speak, forced open by Miss Muriel Les- 
ter, whose guest Gandhi was in London and who is insis- 
ting on escorting him as far as Brindisi, which I believe he 
would willingly do without. She is an intelligent and force- 
ful Englishwoman who works with the poorer classes in 
London and whose manners are brusque and domineering. 
I could have forgiven her whim of breaking into my house 
if she had not had the cheek to bring other visitors in her 
wake, one of whom I would not have allowed in had I 
known his identity in time: Evans, a large English police- 
man, who, with a colleague, has been ordered to escort 
Gandhi as far as his port of embarkation. Gandhi makes 
a show of looking at him and introduces him as a friend. 
(Is this naivety or indifference? I would incline towards 
the latter, as I now know 7 that there is nothing naive about 
Gandhi.) But there is danger here. These policemen claim 
that their orders are to protect Gandhi, but in fact they are 
watching him, keeping check on w T hat he does and the 
people he sees. Our big Evans makes so little effort to hide it 
that he asks Edmond Privat what the subject of our conver- 
sations was — and the worthy Privat replies ingenuously that 
I have been telling Gandhi about Russia. (The result is 
that some days later the Feuille d’ Avis de Montreux, in order 
to warn little Switzerland against Gandhi’s blandishments, 
paints a picture of him visiting “the Bolshevik Romain 
Rolland” and seeking to disarm the valiant Swiss so as to 
hand them over to Moscow Communism.) 

Monday is very rainy until halfway through the after- 
noon, at which moment Gandhi slips out of the villa and 
Mira has great difficulty in catching him up, as he walks 
very quickly. They go for a walk in Villeneuve, as far as 
the little bridge where the lakeside path branches off among 


Romaic Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

the reeds. The photographers take snapshots of him in 
various places, and the people of Villeneuve exchange re- 
marks which are not very charitable; Macha hears things 
like “He’s hideous”, and “Some people like to make a show 
of themselves”. The police (Swiss and English) follow at a 
distance. The telephone is perpetually ringing, and Privat 
spends two or three hours of the evening in our house 
answering calls without being able to put the receiver down. 
Geneva complains of being sacrificed to Lausanne, and wants 
its share of Gandhi; a meeting is organized for Thursday. Privat 
does this only reluctantly; he is fearful for Gandhi and is 
afraid of a hostile audience. But that is exactly the sort of 
thing which interests Gandhi; he enjoys replying to objections. 

On Tuesday (8 December), at 9-30, the conversations 
with Gandhi are resumed. He wants to talk about the 
Italian question first, and tells me he has had an invitation 
from Consul Scarpa, a cultivated man, who knows the Indians 
and has business in India. He has a good reputation 
there, based on his so-called sympathy for the national cause, 
but Gandhi is more mistrustful ; he believes Scarpa’s motives 
are merely interested ones. While he was still in India he 
received an invitation to go to Italy. . . . 

“I should like to go there, to see Mussolini.” (I trans- 
cribe the notes taken by Macha.) 

“My wish is to see the people and bear them the mis- 
sion of peace. If they do not accept it, that is not my affair; 
it cannot make me change my course. I also want to see 
the Pope, who sent me a kind message; if I see him I shall 
be able to handle the Indian Roman Catholics better, and I 
should like to see their leader, in the same way as I see 
Muslim leaders. I have seen Catholic and Protestant bi- 
shops and also Muslims. I knew that there were some bad 
ones, but there are good ones as well. I had forgotten Italy 
up till now, but Scarpa did not forget; here is his latest 
letter. As to my embarkation from Italy, the Lloyd Office 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


would be willing to delay the departure until midday to 
allow me to visit Brindisi, but I do not want any special 
favours. Scarpa has also offered me two first-class compart- 
ments from the Italian frontier; I should prefer to travel 
third class, but I do not want to make a fuss about it. Scarpa 
wants me to tell him the date of my arrival at the frontier, 
and tells me that the time I want to stay is too short for the 
programme foreseen. He assures me that it is a private, 
not an official visit and that the invitation is his own, hut 
that is only form; the Italian Government is behind it and 
Scarpa is its instrument. But there are people in Milan and 
Rome who would like to see me. Scarpa wants me to arrive 
in Milan on the 9th, in Rome on the 1 1 th and leave on the 
13th, but I cannot shorten my stay here; I shall only give 
one day to Italy. Mme. Toeplitz, wife of the director of the 
Bank of Italy, wants to receive me in her home. The Isti- 
tuto di Gultura in Rome, presided over by Gentile, w r ould 
arrange a reception, and Contessa C. has offered hospitality. 
I have been asked if I specially want to see any particular 
institution and to cable my plans. My personal wish is to 
spend one day in Rome; I do not intend to take part in 
any public reception. But the Istituto is well known, and 
I should be willing to say a few words there, and if the 
Pope wants to see me I shall go. As for Mussolini, I do 
not think he wants to see me, but if he does I shall go 
without hesitation. But it will not be in secret; I never see 
people in secret. That is my position, now it is your turn 
to speak.” 

I speak again about the terrible and complicated situa- 
tion in Italy. The most remarkable men in Italy are shame- 
fully making themselves the servants of the powers-that- 
be I remind him of Professor Formichi, Tagore's friend, a 
great Buddhist and a courtier of Mussolini, causing Tagore 
to fall into the trap. As for the Toeplitz family, I had some 
correspondence with the daughter, who was an explorer 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

in Tibet. She sent me her books, full of flattering dedica- 
tions, and I was staggered to find in them an apology for 
Mussolini alongside Buddha and Christ as a God of goodness. 
I wrote her a severe letter to which, of course, she did not 
reply, but she still sent me her next book. I speak again 
of Gentile, a great philosopher and disciple of Croce, who 
uses refined sophistry to conciliate reasons of state and 
thuggery with lofty thought. His name puts me in mind of 
Zanotti-Bianco, who had dealings with him. I describe 
this pure apostle devoting himself to the service of poverty 
in Southern Italy, and relate how Fascism tried to annex 
him and his charitable work, and force all his members to 
take the Fascist oath; Zanotti went to see Gentile, who held 
ministerial office at the time, and said to him: “Do you want 
to prostitute the consciences of these men, and make them 
lose their souls?” Gentile ironically replied: “You know what 
the Gospel says: ‘He who would save his soul must lose 
it. 5 ” The Istituto is full of remarkable intellectuals, but they 
have no conscience and they are dangerous, for they lie. 
How can the danger be avoided? — not for you, Gandhi; 
that is not at issue, but for what you represent. Think of 
what you represent for thousands of oppressed Italians re- 
duced to silence ! Do you not fear that your apparent con- 
sent to the regime which crushes them will complete their 
demoralization? Remember the other words from the Gospel: 
“Woe unto him who scandalizes one of these least!” It is 
essential that you give the impression that you are not in 
contact with the oppressive regime. You must accept nothing 
from the Italian Government, pay for your rail tickets your- 
self and not accept hospitality from people of whom you 
are not sure. ... If you want to see the Pope and the 
Vatican, well and good, but avoid anything official! 

Gandhi: I am obliged to take literally what Scarpa 
says to me (that he is acting as an individual, and not on 
behalf of the government). I shall accept it (Scarpa’s invita- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


tion to speak at the Istituto), but I shall make a condi- 
tion that I can speak about whatever I like in their 

R. R. : Then demand that foreign reporters should be 
present to take down what you say. Though even they may 
be Fascists as well! ... It seems very difficult to be sure 
that what you say won’t be covered up or deformed. 

Gandhi: It’s against my nature to make arrangements 
in advance. 

R. R. : You’ll be isolated and shut in. Everyone around 
you will be Fascists, even the foreign journalists. 

Gandhi: I know, but that will not prevent me from 
breaking through the cordon. ... I shall make it a condi- 
tion that I can speak freely, and it will not be about in- 
different things; I shall say what I think. This is how I feel. 
I cannot act other-wise. I didn’t go out of my way to seek 
this visit, but I have received the invitation, and it seems to 
me that I shall be able to speak even in this atmosphere. 

R. R.: I don’t think anyone will stop you speaking; 
the problem is that it will be suppressed or deformed in 
the newspapers. (I relate Tagore’s experiences.) 

Gandhi: Let’s suppose it isn’t reproduced, or that it is 
deformed. Even in England this happened, except in the 
Manchester Guardian ; other papers simply boycotted it. What 
I said in Paris was deformed as well; disgusting things were 
written in Le Figaro. But Toung India will carry the full text 
of all I said and anything I will say in the future. 

R. R.: But the harm done by these deformations in 
England and France affects you alone, whereas anything 
of this nature in Italy would be harmful to the Italians. 
People would say: “The great saint is with the oppressors 
against the oppressed.” There’s another danger. You’ll be 
speaking in English, and translated into Italian. Who will 
check it? The sense may be changed. You’ll have to ask 
for a typescript. 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Gandhi: If I think it’s my duty to speak, I shall do so 
and trust God. I see the object; I don’t know how, but 
it will be achieved somehow or other. It is impossible for 
me to take meticulous precautions. 

R. R.: Mira and Desai should always be there when 
you are speaking. 

Gandhi: There will never be any secret meetings. That 
said, let us consider whether or not it is in the interest of the 
cause that I should go to Rome! Sometimes an action has 
no immediate effect, but there may be a long-term effect. 
The immediate effect may be that the press deforms what 
I say, but the distant effect of a good thing must be good. I 
believe I must take the risk, as I am sure that I shall 
not succumb to temptation. Beyond that we can foresee 
nothing. We have to take a decision. 

R. R.: There can’t be any good effect as you won’t 
be able to make contact with the right people. You will 
see no one but the regime’s chosen accomplices: Gentile, 
Formichi and the like; souls full of falsehood under the guise 
of intellectuals. When, where and how will you see anyone 
else? Everyone will believe that you’ve come to pay court 
to the oppressors. 

Gandhi: Tell me your final opinion, then, about my 
projected stay in Rome. 

R. R. : If it were me, I should set conditions ; otherwise I 
fear you may be swindled. You’ll have to put things bru- 
tally there, not politely and courteously. They’ll agree with 
everything you say (like Mussolini, who said “Me too” when 
Tagore told him that he found violence horrifying), and 
they’ll all think the opposite. ... You ought to be able to 
meet Zanotti-Bianco. ... If you like I’ll send a telegram 
to my friend General Moris to arrange for you to stay 
with him. He’s an absolutely trustworthy gentleman whose 
high position and past services permit him to be inde- 
pendent; no one could be better able to look after you 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


and defend you. He has a high sense of honour and he’s 
deeply wounded by what’s happening in Italy. There is an 
opposition against Fascism centred on the King and the 
army, and there are some highly placed heads that the 
Fascists don’t dare touch. General Moris is one of them; 
he founded and directed the Italian Air Force. 

Gandhi agrees, as he has not yet accepted Scarpa’s 
invitation. We speak a little longer about Italy, about the 
Istituto di Cultura, and about a disciple of St. Francis living 
near Siena, with whom Gandhi has been corresponding 
for years and who has adopted the rules of the Ashram. 
She would like to see Gandhi in passing, but Siena is too far 
away from Rome. It is finally decided that I should 
send a telegram to General Moris. 

Gandhi: This subject is finished; shall we continue our 
conversation? What else do you w T ant to talk about? 

R. R. : I gave a monologue yesterday. Now you tell 
me what you think about what I said. 

Gandhi: Listening to you yesterday I saw how much 
you have suffered, and I understood what an immense effort 
it has cost you to reach your conclusions. But for my 
part, I was formed in a completely different way. What- 
ever conclusions I may have come to in my life, I have 
not drawn them from history, which played a very small part 
in my education. My method is empirical; all my conclu- 
sions are based on my personal experience. Certainly I 
recognize that there is a risk of illusion in this. I know 
madmen who believe in certain things and cannot be 
detached from them, since this is their experience. The 
dividing line between the experiences of such madmen and 
my own is a slender one. Nevertheless I cannot but trust 
them. The sages of the past have noted their experiences 
based on intuition; everyone now believes that they were 
right and they have stood the tesfi’of history. I like to think 
that mine, too, are not without foundation. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Listening to what you said yesterday, I wondered how 
to react, and I said to myself that I cannot say that my 
faith is the same as yours. The problems you have placed 
before me are terrible. Whereas non-violence is effective and 
will continue to be so in India, it may well be that in 
Europe it will fail. But this does not embarrass me. I believe 
non-violence has a universal application. But I do not believe that I 
myself can give this message to Europe. ... I have spoken 
with many sincere Englishmen, and foreigners too, and I 
say to them: You must not budge an inch if you do not have 
faith within you. But I should still believe even if the whole world 
did not believe. After having seen the difficulties, after yes- 
terday’s conversation, it remains my faith that non-vio- 
lence alone can save Europe. Otherwise all is lost. What 
is happening in Russia is an enigma. I have not discussed 
Russia very much, but I have a deep mistrust of the ultimate 
success of the experiment being carried out there. It seems to 
me that it is a challenge to non-violence. It appears to be 
succeeding, but behind its success lies force, violence. I do 
mot know how long this force will be adequate to hold soci- 
ety within this narrow passage. When Indians are exposed 
to Russian influence, it leads them into extreme intolerance, 
and the result is that they are under a system of terrorism. 
I look upon this experiment with mistrust. All the 
Englishmen I know who have been to Russia (and the 
Americans too) seem to be impartial; some speak well of 
it, others badly. I have discussed it, among others, with 
Lord Lothian and Bernard Shaw. Lord Lothian is not sure 
whether this force can remodel society, or how far it can go. 
Shaw writes on the subject with enthusiasm, but I found 
no signs of this enthusiasm when I talked with him. In 
any case I did not discuss the problem with him very much; 
he was so interested in India that we spoke mainly about 
that. From what I have seen of Europe, I believe that Europe 
cannot avoid the need for non-violence. Luckily no extensive 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


organization is necessary; all that is required is one man 
who will be faith and non-violence incarnate. Until that 
man appears you must wait, hope and prepare the atmos- 

R. R.: I sent you a copy of my letter to Runham 
Brown (about Einstein’s declaration',. I said there that if 
non-violence were to be organized on a broad base with a 
leader, it w T ould achieve its victory in time, but in Europe, 
time is the crucial question. We are going through a very 
serious crisis in which all human hopes are threatened to be 
crushed by the forces of violence, with no hope of recovery. 
This violence is weighing on the whole world. The trans- 
formation of a whole people in the direction of non-violence, 
even if it can happen at all, cannot be fast; it needed a 
century for Christ’s ideas to be propagated, and in twenty 
years everything will have crumbled if we do not take steps 
to stop it at once. So what form must non-violence take in 
Europe ? 

Gandhi: I answered a similar question in Paris. . . . 
We live- in a really idolatrous world! Christianity cannot 
do without idolatry! It needs to see, touch and feel, by one 
of its five senses. Before deciding, it needs a visible demon- 
stration of non-violence and its success. . . . India is giving 
this demonstration. If it succeeds, everything will become 
very simple. It is my faith that this wall not take twenty 
years. If India achieves true liberty, the world will have its 
demonstration, and I believe that all Europeans will see how 
simple it is. England will be forced to do her duty. But if 
violence breaks out in India, if there are clashes between 
Hindus and Muslims plunging us all back into chaos, — 
well, I still have my consolation, my faith. So far non- 
violence has produced nothing but good results; there's 
no doubt that English opinion has been influenced by it 
(though not enough yet!). Everyone can see that if theie 
had been no non-violence there would have been no 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Round Table Conference. The desired result has not been 
achieved, but the indirect results are very numerous, and 
when we have been through the ordeal by fire and suffer- 
ing it will be very easy. Perhaps I am wrong. But even if 
I do not succeed I shall still not lose my faith, and I shall 
devote myself to the purification of the small number of 
people who are devoted to me. In South Africa I had 
to wait six years. In India I was unable to join battle bet- 
ween 1922 and last year. But one way or another the good 
word is coming, has come and will continue to come. I 
believe that you will be able to give battle when necessary, 
but I have nothing to suggest to you. The situation is too 
confused in Europe. 

R. R. : I am sure that Indian non-acceptance is having 
an immense world-wide influence. Besides, there have long 
ago been collective experiments with non-violence in 
Europe; one of the most remarkable was in Poland in 1860. 
But we have two or three types of difficulty in Europe; 
there are national and social questions. Among the peoples 
suffering under the 1919 treaties non-acceptance finds an 
understanding audience. But in cases of social oppression, 
examples of this kind of tactics are either lacking or 
inadequate. You Indians have been maltreated and you 
still are, but I doubt whether you have suffered the 
ignominies known in the Balkans and in Poland. In some 
European and Asiatic countries (Japan) the exploitation 
of female and child labour is really shocking. It is to the 
oppressed classes that the word of liberation must be carried. 
When we see them organizing themselves in self-defence, 
can we blame them ? Think of the situation in Russia under 
Tsarist and capitalist oppression. Can we tell Russia to- 
day not to offer resistance to Europe, America or Japan if 
they invade her? It should be among our own proletariat 
in the West that we organize non-acceptance, in the defence 
of Russia. The social question has taken over from the 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


national question in Europe. Basically, the opposing growth 
of capitalism on the one hand and the proletariat on the 
other is working in the same internationalist direction. 
There are two Internationales tod..y, the one set against the 

Gandhi , whose attention seems less intense w hen the subject 
under discussion is not something he has seen and tested for himself, 
replies off-the-point: 

There are 3 million unemployed in England. I spoke 
to the employers, and their relationship with the workers 
is good. I told the workers that the remedy is to fight not 
against capitalism but against themselves. They are ask- 
ing for capital to supply their needs, but it i& not capital that 
is opposed to them; the trouble is that there is no market. 
If all the capital of the wealthy were distributed among the 
unemployed, it would not last long. I said to them: "Help 
yourselves, and return to your cottage industries. 55 A 
few modest experiments have been made in that direction 
in Wales; a few miners returned to their old trades and dis- 
covered that their salvation lay there. No man should live 
on another’s help. 

R. R.: England is a privileged country. The situa- 
tion is different elsewhere. ( This is a theme I later return to, 
in our fifth conversation.) But there is one more danger in 
Europe and America, in the existence of 'a middle class living 
at the expense of the oppressed peoples of other nations. 
After the victory, we were told in Francegthat “Germany 
will pay”. Now all the peoples of the West are being 
told : “The world — Asia and Africa — will pay.” Armies 
of coloured men are being trained for the coming wars. We 
are returning to the system of the Roman Empire with its 
privileged people, who unloaded all their' burdens on to the 
people they enslaved. At present my people, m France, are 
still enjoying a well-being based on world poverty. Even 
our most open-minded intellectuals prefer not to look too 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

closely; they gain too much from the situation and don’t 
want the present order, based on force, to be disturbed. 

Gandhi: Is not the remedy in the hands of the exploited 
peoples? In non-co-operation with the exploiters? . . . 

R. R.: For people without religion this is impossible. 
The workers will be tempted by high salaries to make the 
arms and ammunitions which will be used against their bro- 
thers in other lands. First of all we ought to preach to 
them a gospel of poverty, selflessness and abnegation, a 
gospel of love. But it is more difficult to preach poverty 
and abnegation to victors and conquerors than it is to the 
vanquished and the oppressed. 

Gandhi admits this, and here the notes of the conver- 
sation stop. As they leave, I give Mira and Desai the ques- 
tions sent by Monatte’s group of French revolutionary 
syndicalists, asking them to translate them for Gandhi and 
write down his answers. 

Present at the meeting with the above, the Japanese 
sculptor Takata, quiet and forgotten in a corner, model- 
ling his clay. 

In the afternoon Gandhi goes to Lausanne, for meetings 
organized by Edmond Privat and Ceres ole. He refuses to 
use the cars made available by Dr. Niehans and Dr. Per- 
ret; he wants to go by rail, third class. But to avoid 
crowds on his arrival, they get off at Pully, the station 
before Lausanne, and go from there to the meeting-hall 
by car. 

There are three meetings in succession: at 4 p.m., at 
6, and at 7 or 8. Only the second is a public lecture, 
and it is broadcast on Swiss radio. I can hear it very clearly 
in my dining room (for I have stayed at home alone with 
Macha; the rest are all in Lausanne). Gandhi’s voice comes 
over surprisingly clearly, quiet, firm and well-articulated 
(about in the baritone register) ; one realizes even better than 
when in his presence what a sound instrument he has at his 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


disposal: he could speak like that for hours without his voice 
showing a moment’s sign of fatigue. Privat can also be heard 
very well, translating the English into French, and the re- 
actions of the public, warmly applauding: they laugh at 
some of Gandhi’s sharp replies. Unfortunately, the most 
interesting of the three meetings is the first, which I cannot 
hear, and which my sister reports to me when she returns, 
about midnight. The 4 o’clock meeting was private; the 
only ones present with Gandhi and his personal friends were 
Ceresole and the heads of his International Civil Service 
movement, also the head of the Swiss Conscientious Objec- 
tors. The main discussion is about the “Theorv and Prac- 
tice of Non-violence”, and a report of it can be read in the 
“Letters from Europa” sent by Desai to Young India. I shall 
report here only the parts of it relevant to Einstein’s the- 
sis, about which I have written myself, and the objections 
to it from Gandhi’s point of view'. “How t to carry out non- 
violence effectively.” Should one simply refuse to carry 
arms ? Einstein has made an appeal to men not to take part 
in war. . . . Gandhi replies humorously: “Really, if I 
may say this about a great man, it seems that Einstein has 
stolen my method. But if you want me to go to the heart 
of the matter, I should say that simply refusing military ser- 
vice is vot enough. To refuse military service when the time has 
come is to leave action until the time available for combating the 
evil has practically passed. Military service is only a symptom of 
a deeper evil. All those not inscribed for military service still 
participate equally in the crime if they support the state in 
other w r ays. Anyone who supports, directly or indirectly, a 
state with a military organization participates in the crime. 
Every man, young or old, participates in the crime if he 
contributes to the maintenance of the state by paying taxes. 
That is why I said to myself during the war that as long as 
I eat the corn which the army is defending, as long as 
I am carrying out all the other duties of the state apart 


Roznain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

from being a soldier, it would be better for me to be en- 
rolled in the army and exposing myself to be killed. . . . 
Thai is why all those who wish to stop military service should 
do it by withdrawing all co-operation from the state. The refu- 
sal of military service is much more superficial than non- 
co-operation with the whole system supporting the state. 
But then the opposition becomes so sharp and effective that 
you risk not only being put in prison, but also being thrown 
into the street.” 

Ceresole, extremely moved (the poor man has spent all 
his energies honourably trying to conciliate his incompa- 
tible duties as a good citizen and a good conscientious ob- 
jector), tries to show that not everything in the state is bad, 
and that one can co-operate with the things it does which 
are good and useful to the community. Gandhi firmly re- 
plies: “Here you are touching on the most sensitive point 
of human nature. I have been faced with this question as 
the originator of the movement of non-co-operation. I said 
to myself that there is no state, even mn by a Nero or a Mus- 
solini, which has no good things in it. But we must reject 
the whole from the moment we decide not to co-operate with 
the system. There are in our country great public roads and 
educational institutions which are real palaces; but they 
are part of a system which crushes the nation, and I must 
have nothing in common with them. They are like the 
serpent in the fable who wears a jewel on his head but whose 
fangs are full of poison. Thus I came to the conclusion 
that the English regime in India had crushed the nation’s 
energy and arrested its growth, and I decided to refuse all 
its privileges — services, tribunals, titles, etc. The policy to 
follow varies from country to country, but the essential points 
are sacrifice and abnegation. What Einstein says can hap- 
pen only once a year and with a very small number of 
people, but I suggest non-co-operation with the state as your 
first duty.” 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Off sole again defends himself, claiming that there is 
a profound difference between an independent nation and 
a subject nation. India may be fundamentally in conflict 
with a government foreign to her, but how can a Swiss 
citizen break with a state which he has helped to elect? 
Gandhi replies: “There indubitably is a difference. As a 
member of a subject nation I can best help it by shaking off 
the yoke of subjection. But what you are asking me is 
how best to liberate yourselves from the military mentality. 
You enjoy privileges on condition of doing military service 
for the state. Thus you have to liberate the &t~te from the 
military mentality. Start by giving up your privileges, by 
not sending your children to school, not bending your sick 
to hospital, not keeping your jobs and your salaries, not 
using the post and the public ser\ ices, etc. Xon-payment 
of tax is too easy, and should not come until much later. 
We waited ten years in India before reaching that stage. . . 

These categorical declarations profoundly shock and 
disturb C.r-sole and his disciples in the International Ci\il 
Service, and they cannot bring themselves to support 
them at once, but it is certain that these men of noble and 
sincere conscience will be given much painful food for 
thought. Gffsole shows this by admitting at the beginning 
of the third meeting (public, but less open to all and 
sundry than the second, being specially reserved for the small 
army of Conscientious Objectors) that Gandhi has made 
them feel the weakness of their efforts. And his lieutenant in 
th'e Civil Service, the generous-spirited H 1 ne Monastier, 
expresses with touching humility the shame they feel in 
his presence; they are afraid of everything and everyone, 
while he fears nothing. “We have our truth, " On sole adds, 
“but you have the truth.” 

At this third Lausanne meeting, taking place in a 
church, at which all the Objectors and C r< sole's “soldiers” 
stand hand in hand to sing the song of Swiss comradeship, 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Gandhi has further profound ideas to express when asked 
the question: “Why do you regard God as Truth?” 

Gandhi: In my very early youth I was taught that the 
Hindu scriptures knew almost a thousand names of God, 
but these thousand names are not nearly enough. I believe 
that God has as many names as there are living creatures, 
and this is why we also say that God is without name. And 
since God has many forms, we also consider him as being 
without form. And since he speaks to us in many tongues, 
we consider him speechless. When I came to study Islam, 
I saw that Islam too had many names for God. With 
those who say that God is Love, I too say that God is 
Love. But in my heart I thought that though God may 
be Love, God is, above all, Truth. If it is possible for 
human language to give its complete description of God, 
my conclusion is that for me, God is Truth. But two years 
ago I made a step further, to say that Truth is God. I came 
to this conclusion after an incessant search for truth which 
began about fifty years ago. I felt then that the nearest app- 
roach to Truth was made by Love, but I have recog- 
nized that the word “love” has many meanings in the 
English language and that human love, in the sense of pas- 
sion, can also become a degrading thing. I have also recog- 
nized that love in the sense of Ahimsa has but a small number 
of adherents in the w r orld. But I have never found a 
double meaning to the word “Truth”. Even the athe- 
ists do not doubt the necessity or the power of truth. In 
their passion to discover truth, the atheists have not hesitated 
to deny the existence of God, — and from their point of view they 
are right. It is because of this reasoning that I decided that 
rather than saying “God is Truth”, I should say “Truth 
is God”. I recall the name of Charles Bradlaugh; he liked 
to call himself an atheist, but knowing him as I know him 
I shall never look upon him as an atheist. I shall call 
him a God-fearing man, though I know he would reject the 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


title. ... I should disarm his criticisms by saying to him 
that Truth is God, as I have disarmed the criticisms of many 
youths. I might add that millions have used the name of 
God and committed atrocities in his name. This is not to 
say that scientists, too, do not very often commit cruelties 
in the name of Truth; I know how in the name of science 
and truth, all sorts of frightful cruelties are perpetrated on 
animals by vivisection. So there are a certain number of 
difficulties on the way, however one describes God. But the 
human mind has its limitations, and we must work within 
these limitations w r hen we try to conceive of a Being or an 
Entity beyond our powers of apprehension. Then we have 
another saying in Hindu philosophy: “God alone is, and 
nothing else is.” You will find the same truth emphasized 
and illustrated in the Kalma of Islam. The Sanskrit word 
for Truth means literally “ that which exists ”, “ Sat ”. For this 
and several other reasons I have come to the conclusion that 
the definition “Truth is God” satisfies me best. And when 
you want to find the Truth which is God, the only infallible way 
to it is by Love, which means Mon-violence. And since I believe 
that in the last analysis the end and the means are inter- 
changeable terms, I have no hesitation in saying that God 
is Love. 

The point is pressed, and he is again asked: “But what 
is Truth?” 

“A difficult question,” Gandhi replies. “But I have 
solved it for myself by saying that it is what the inner \oice 
tells us. You will ask: ‘How is it then that different people 
think different and contrary truths?’ — Well, we see that the 
human spirit works through innumerable media, and that 
the evolution of the human mind is not the same for all men. 
It followsThat what may be truth for one man is non-truth 
for another. Those who seek truth in this way have come 
to the conclusion that certain conditions must first be ob- 
served. In the same way that there are indispensable courses 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

of scientific instruction to be undergone before anyone 
can carry out scientific experiments, a strict preliminary 
discipline is necessary before a person can be qualified to 
make experiments in the spiritual domain. This is why 
everyone should reach an exact knowledge of his limita- 
tions before speaking of his inner voice. We have a belief, 
based on experience, that those who wish to make their 
individual search for the Truth which is God must under- 
go certain vows, for instance the vow of Truth and the 
vow of Brahmacharya (chastity) , for it is not possible to 
share our love of Truth and God with anything else, the vow 
of Non-violence , the vow of Poverty and of Non-possession . If you 
do not impose these five vows on yourself, you will in no 
way be able to embark upon the experience of truth. There 
are several other prescribed conditions, but I cannot speak 
of all of them. It is enough to say that those who have carried 
out these experiments know that it is not fitting for everyone to 
claim that he hears the voice of conscience. And since nowadays 
everyone demands the right to speak of his conscience with- 
out having undergone any kind of discipline at all, and 
since there are so many non-truths in this disorientated world, 
all I can say to you in all true humility is that truth cannot be 
found by anyone who has not achieved an abundant sense of humility. 
If you want to swim in the bosom of the Ocean of Trtuh, you must 
reduce yourself to zero. I can go no further along this fascinating 

The statements made in the first Lausanne meeting were 
quite serious in character, being a call for absolute disobe- 
dience to the state. They could have aroused the official 
press against • Gandhi and caused him to be threatened 
with expulsion. But since they took place in a private 
meeting, public opinion at large knew nothing about them 
— or else officialdom found it prudent to ignore them. It 
was not the same with some things said at the second 
public meeting (the one I heard), at which Gandhi lashed 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


out at the dishonesty of two Swiss newspapers, the Journal 
de Geneve and the Tribune de Lausanne. One of them reported 
Gandhi’s words at the meeting in Paris in a form diametri- 
cally opposed to the truth. The other twisted things so as 
to hint at an implication in Gandhi’s thought that he fore- 
sees violent tactics and accepts them in advance, after trying 
non-violence for a certain time. The two papers were doing 
their utmost to present Gandhi as a nationalist hiding his 
trump-cards, — so as to enrol him willy-nilly in the hypo- 
critical so-called neutral nationalism of the Swiss militarists. 
Gandhi said clearly that this w'as a dishonest “fabrication”; 
he did not challenge the good faith of the editor (of the 
Geneva paper), but considered it the editor’s duty to treat 
his correspondent as a dishonest employee and make him 
retract his lie. Thereupon the Lausanne public applauded 
noisily, and at the same time the furious journalists left the 
room and slammed the doors. 

It was thus to be expected that the Swiss press which 
had treated Gandhi with respect so far, should change its 
attitude next day. It did so, but in a still guarded ironic 
tone, as the quarrel still only concerned two individual news- 
papers. Quite different was the watchword on the day after 
the Genevan public meeting, on Thursday. But we must not 
anticipate ! 

Wednesday 9 December.-Gandhi reserved the morning 
in advance for audiences he had agreed to give, in which 
context I ought to note that when he arrived on Sunday 
evening, at 9 o’clock, after our meeting and the prayer, 
Gandhi received some journalists — about a dozen of them, 
all of whom proved to be immeasurably inept; none of them 
were up to asking him an intelligent question. But I got him 
to agree to come to my house at about half past eleven to 
pose for a photographer (R. Schlemmer, of Montreux), 
a thing which he hardly ever does. Schlemmer took some 
excellent shots of him with me, also with Mira and my 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

sister. Charles Baudouin, from Geneva, was there too, and 

1 talked with him afterwards. 

In the afternoon, Gandhi wanted to go with Mira to 
Sepey, above Aigle, to visit an old peasant woman that 
Mira used to know, who spins in the same way as an 
Indian peasant; she and Mira had talked about Gandhi 
together. So a trip by car is arranged, and they take the 
opportunity to go on to Leysin, to let Gandhi visit Dr. 
Vauthier’s International University Sanatorium. (Neither 
1 1 nor my sister go on the trip, which takes place between 

2 and 4-30, in fine winter weather) Gandhi does not seem to 
have paid much attention to the intellectuals’ sanatorium 1 , 
except to note how cleanly it is kept (that is the one com- 
ment he makes). But he is delighted by his visit to the 
old peasant lady. He finds her working at her weaving and 
he sits down facing her for a chat. Her two goats and her 
two cows are in the next room. He feels as if he is back in 
India and says things are exactly the same there. The old 
lady, who was not expecting his visit, is delighted but not 
surprised; they laugh and chatter together like the best of 

When he returns, just before 5 o’clock, Gandhi comes 
to see me, but I am a little tired, and I must admit that on 
that particular day I have the feeling that Gandhi’s way is 
so clearly marked out before him and — in many ways — 
so different from mine that we have very little to discuss 
together; we each know exactly where we are going, and 
Gandhi’s way is perfect for himself and his followers; I 

1 A characteristic detail : a week after Gandhi’s departure its director. 
Dr. Vauthier, makes a worried telephone call about a “Golden Book” 
of the Sanatorium which he had given to Gandhi to write in. We had 
not heard the slightest mention of this book from Gandhi, but we 
finally found it, lost in an odd corner of the villa, without anything 
by Gandhi written in it 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


would not wish it to be different, and I admire and love him 
the way he is. But what have we to say to each other? — 
beyond what we did on the first day, taking his hands in 
mine, looking at each other face to face and smiling, while 
he laughs his jerky little laugh, his mouth open like a good 
dog panting. ... Be that as it may, I am not in a talka- 
tive mood this evening, and our conversation on the 9th 
is the least interesting of the five we have. 

My sister starts by asking Gandhi what he thinks of 
Ramsay MacDonald, and whether he is sincere. 

Gandhi: Yes and No. He’s sincere in the sense that he 
wants to be faithful to his declaration, but he must know 
and he does know that this means England losing her central 
responsibility over India, and he still keeps saying that this 
responsibility exists; so he wants you to believe the truth of 
something which is not true. And he seemed insincere in 
another sense, that he’s not open in his conversation; he’s 
evasive. I do not have a good opinion of him. But I don’t 
want to be unjust; he bears a heavy responsibility, which 
is difficult, he’s overworked and he finds me an awkward 
customer. He knows I’m a fighter, and I’m asking for so 
much that he doesn’t know how to get round me. So he 
can’t be frank. Perhaps it’s weakness rather than insince- 
rity. I have known him a long time. His statements in the 
past were more favourable to us, but it was easier for him 
then as he had no responsibility. 

R. R.: Your last speech at the Round Table has 
caused upsets in some quarters. There are papers in Paris 
and Bulgaria talking about your “Communist threats”. (I 
read him a press cutting.) 

Gandhi: It wasn’t my last speech; it was my speech 
to the Committee of “Federal Structure” about commercial 
discrimination. Even my friends were dismayed. But the 
papers are making me go further than I actually did. I 
said that I myself make no discrimination on grounds of 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

race, colour or class, but only on other fields (the so- 
cial); I said that no existing interests would be hindered 
unless it should prove to be against the national interest or 
illegal. When the National Congress takes over the reins of 
government, if a business concern is illegal, or even if it is 
legal but against the national interest, it will be confiscated 
by the state. This will apply to Indians as well as to Euro- 
peans. This will not be done by order of the Executive; it 
will have to be obtained by a judgment of the National 
Supreme Court. If anyone is to be dispossessed, his case 
will have to go before the Supreme Court and it will have 
to be proved that his interest is in conflict with the national 

We then talk about recent events in India. Of the 
new Ordinances in Bengal, Gandhi says: “I told MacDonald 
that it reminded me of the time before the Great Rebellion.” 

R. R. asks if there is any conflict between the central 
government (London and the Viceroy) and local adminis- 
tration in India, or even between different representatives of 
authority in the same place, as in Japan, where the mili- 
tarist parties act against the government itself. 

Gandhi: There are frequent disagreements between the 
Indian Government and its officials; the main example is 
the tax-collectors who take no account of liberal orders, 
which in any case are rare; but subordinates always enforce 
harsh instructions when they come, which makes them look 
as if they are well-disciplined (in general they only dis- 
obey the infrequent liberal directives) ; the central govern- 
ment cannot fight back as the whole machine will break up 
if it sacks its subordinates. 

R. R. speaks of the Intelligence Service and the occult 
powers attributed to it in Europe. 

Gandhi replies that the worst is the English Civil Service 
in India: “it’s like a snake holding the whole nation in its 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


R. R. tells of a letter he received last summer from a 
former official of the English Civil Service in India, who 
had been a colleague of Aurobindo Ghose for a short time 
and had lived thirty years in India alongside the great men 
I wrote about in my books on India (Vivekananda, etc.) 
without paying any attention to them. 

He is now retired and reading my books, and he says 
with noble and naive sincerity how ashamed he is at 
having wasted his life in this way. 

Next Gandhi gives me advice on my health; he is wor- 
ried to see me shut up like this in overheated rooms. (I am 
still a little feverish after a recent bout of ’flu.) He thinks 
the Villeneuve climate is very bad for me. (This is the worst 
time of the year here; he will leave without knowing how' 
splendid the light can be on some evenings.) He advises 
me to come to India, and assures me that I shall feel better 
there. I plead my work which keeps me here, my duty in 
Europe, where I am almost alone in playing a role in which 
I have no substitutes or helpers, the war having created 
a ruinous misunderstanding between myself and other 

In that case, Gandhi says, I should live in a different 
way and in a different part of Switzerland; I should take a 
“natural cure” of air and sun. Gandhi has kept his mistrust 
of doctors, but he is in no position to appreciate how much 
my whole constitution has deteriorated since the 1918 in- 
fluenza epidemic and the accidents following it; I choose 
not to waste my time and his by telling him about it, and 
pass on to other subjects. 

I ask him if he is aware of the differences between 
young people in the different countries of Europe and the 
world, and I try to describe them to him, starting with the 
state of total relativism dominating modern German youth; 
it is not surprising that Einstein’s theory should have come 
from this environment. France, on the other hand, appears 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

to German youth like the land of established Order, of 
pig-headed and self-confident conservatism. German youth 
is ready for any change: war, revolution, Fascism, anything 
is possible. There is a sharp sense of irritation with France, 
which they see as a dead weight, a ball-and-chain from 
the past. This fluidity in Europe today may take any form, 
and it is the same in modern China, where youth is in a 
state of flux. . . . Gandhi listens, and can only answer: “It 
is so.” I ask him if things are the same in India. 

Gandhi: In India also. But the non-acceptance move- 
ment more or less succeeds in keeping young people under 
some kind of moral control. Maybe not to the point of 
sacrifice or heroism, but at least it prevents them from do- 
ing anything stupid. 

R. R.: You in India have a clear mission obvious to 
all, a common ideal, but Germany has nothing to do, 
either morally or materially; its young people coming out 
of school find themselves faced with an utter void, a total 
material and moral unemployment. This is why it of all 
European youth is most likely to be open to great influences. 
It is a pity you were unable to make any personal contact 
with it. Have you any links with Germany? There are 
thousands of people there with unused spiritual forces. 
In the Latin countries the old frameworks still exist and hold 
minds within them. Your influence would be much less 
likely to spread there at the moment. 

Gandhi speaks of a German friend (or disciple) who 
was with him in India and is in one of the main German 
youth movements. He says that the Germans who came to 
his Ashram calmly accepted all the rules of the Ashram which 
other Europeans had difficulty in following. He says he 
would have been willing to go to Germany but he has no 

Remain Rolland dwells on the despair widespread in 
Germany. Literature no longer answers the needs of young 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


people or the nation as a whole and the intellectuals always 
form a class apart, alongside the rest of the suffering and 
struggling nation. (I refrain from adding that it may- 
be in me that they find their best support) — I say that 
Asia must expect the various European nations to play a 
part in Asiatic conflicts, and I say how sorry I am that 
India knows Europe only through England. 

Gandhi agrees, saying that his quick journey through 
the Continent has struck his Indian companions and shown 
them how separate England is from Europe. 

Our conversation ends at 6 o’clock, since I have asked 
to share in Gandhi’s evening prayers, but instead of holding 
them in his room in the Villa Lionnette, Gandhi wants them 
to be in my ground-floor living room in the Villa Olga, 
to save me going out across the garden. At 7 o’clock he 
returns, followed by a procession of friends and disciples, 
both Indian and European. The gathering squats down 
on the floor (apart from Macha, my sister and myself, sitting 
on the divan) ; Gandhi is next to the recess with the book- 
shelf underneath the terracotta group by the Azores sculptor; 
Mira is almost against my knees ; the rest up against or under- 
neath the furniture. The light is switched off and the beauti- 
ful chants are resumed. Then Gandhi goes back to the 
Villa Lionnette and the gathering disperses. 

I sent a telegram to General Moris in Rome on Tuesday, 
at about 2 in the afternoon, to ask if he is willing to receive 
Gandhi and two of his followers in his house for one 
night. I have been waiting for the reply for nearly 30 hours, 
and am beginning to think that the Fascist censorship must 
have intercepted my message. But finally at about 8 o’clock 
on Wednesday evening, Moris’ “grateful” acceptance arrives. 
(I later find out that he first had to check in high places 
in Rome whether the visit would be accepted and would 
not involve any unpleasantness. Sofia Bertolini writes that 
he was completely satisfied in his enquiries.) 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

In the evening I have another conversation, short but 
pleasant, with Gandhi’s first secretary, Mahadev Desai, a 
handsome Indian, 35 to 40, tall, well-built, with an intelligent 
face. My sister has had longer conversations with him, 
and I know that he left his career as a lawyer to devote himself 
entirely to Gandhi, which has brought him a never-failing 
happiness. But I also know from Mira, and he tells me 
himself this evening, that my writings and thought have 
their place in his life. He was delighted when Mira came 
to the Ashram, as they could talk together about me, and 
Desai asked Mira to teach him French, so that he could read 
my works in the original. But when Gandhi heard about 
it he reproached both of them severely, saying, quite rightly, 
that at a time like the present they should not be reading 
works of art, but devoting themselves entirely to the cause 
of India. This did not stop Desai from continuing his 
studies, as he tells me he now knows enough French to realize 
how often the English translations are unfaithful to my text; 
he asks me to give him Jean-Christophe in French, as well as 
my Vie de Tolsto'i: he hopes that he will soon be sent to 
prison, back in India, which will give him time to read my 
books. The emotion in his eyes and his Indian gestures 
of devotion tell me of the affectionate gratitude he feels to- 
wards me. He and Pyarelal have been longing for this meet- 
ing for years; twice already it should have happened and it 
fell through; he says that it now feels like a dream. Every- 
one works to exhaustion in Gandhi’s circle. When the Master 
himself has gone to bed, Desai and Pyarelal very often stay 
up late at night making the fair copies of notes taken during 
the day. Desai has the job of editing them for publication 
in Young India. 

Thursday, 10 December, is the day of the meeting in 
Geneva, in Victoria Hall. My sister sets off there with 
Gandhi and his secretaries in the morning, as the meeting 
opens at half past midday, but Mira stays with me. She 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


has lunch and we have a good long conversation. (She 
spends the morning doing the washing, hanging it on lines 
in the garden and getting the luggage ready for departure.) 

She speaks intimately about life in the Sabarmati Ashram. 
Like everyone in Gandhi’s circle she has a passionate 
veneration for him, but she says that this man of gentleness 
can be terribly hard, particularly with those closest to him. 
The dearer they are to him, the more he asks of them. He 
keeps an inflexible control over them, going beyond their 
words and their actions to their very thoughts. Tn fact he 
is most pitiless of all with their bad thoughts, and he does 
not need to have them confessed to him; he reads in their 
minds and tears them from the depths of their souls before 
they have time to say anything. Everyone fears him, but 
they cherish him too, and the implacable discipline he for- 
ces them to impose on themselves is very good for them. 
There is no lack of difficulties in the Ashram, either, where 
so many people and so many different families are gathered 
together. There is a never-ending series of clashes and fric- 
tion, which only the “Bapu’s” firm and calm control can 
settle and humanize. Admittedly they are all men of recog- 
nized moral value, and the general atmosphere of the 
Ashram is one of exceptional purity. As to Gandhi’s family, 
it has not given him entire satisfaction. Of his four sons, 
one has frankly gone to the bad. Another, Devdas, who is 
here with him, is a nice lad but very much a lightweight, 
with no idea of the seriousness of his father’s mission. A third 
is still very young, and the fourth (is it the first — or the 
second-born?) is conscientiously working in Gandhi’s foot- 
steps in South Africa, at Phoenix, but there seems to be 
nothing exceptional about him. Mrs. Gandhi is a faithful 
wife who has sacrificed herself to her husband’s mission, but 
without ever quite identifying herself with it; (though she 
seems in the last few months to be taking part in the cam- 
paign of non-co-operation, and has spoken in one or two 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

meetings, which is almost incredible for her). She is a 
housewife above all else, and cannot get used to the public 
character of life in the Ashram, where everything is open 
to all and sundry. Gandhi is no less on show, day and night, 
than a king in his court, but he never stands on cere- 
mony and simply carries on as if he were alone. (Mira has 
sometimes asked him when he finds the time for meditation 
in this ceaseless hustle and bustle; he replies that the best 
school for meditation is to practise it among hundreds of 
people, and he has completely succeeded.) So the inconso- 
lable Mrs. Gandhi shuts herself up in the kitchen, and there 
at least she means to rule the roost. She looks askance on 
outsiders, and Mira had a hard time at the beginning with 
her. When Mira went into her kitchen to prepare her meals, 
she would arrange for there to be nothing left but the things 
most likely to revolt her, so as to make her leave the 
Ashram. Gandhi had to intervene; he ended up saying to 
Mira: “This is intolerable. Do your cooking separately in 
your room!” But Mira has not kept any bitterness about 
it, and says it is impossible to bear a grudge against Mrs. 
Gandhi, who is just like a child. She changes her mind 
between the morning and the evening; after giving way 
on every point, she will suddenly be repossessed by the 
desire to give orders and scold everybody. She is allowed 
to have her say, and the mood passes as easily as it came. 
But she is still an excellent and respectable woman, and now 
that she knows Mira’s sincere and selfless character they 
have made friends. Mira has been through all the tasks in 
the Ashram, starting by the most revolting, cleaning out the 
latrines (which, she says, is no small task!). Gandhi always 
tests his disciples in this way at the outset; Pyarelal went 
through it too. Gandhi has also kept a severe watch over 
her passionate affection, and has forced her to do difficult 
tasks and spend months on end away. She has often lived 
alone in Indian villages, teaching the peasants cotton-card- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


ing or other weaving techniques. The admirable thing is 
that she has never for a day, or even an hour, felt any 
anxiety, boredom or nostalgia. It has turned out that 
India is her predestined country. (We know that she at- 
tributes this to her origins, which she can trace through 
her Russian great-grandmother who married an English- 
man, to that strange race, the gipsies, who seem to have 
originated in India.) She has always felt at home among 
the Indian peasants, particularly in the United Provinces 
and Bihar; she is at a loss for terms affectionate enough 
to speak of the kindness of these people, their dignity and 
the perfectly intimate relationship they have always had 
with her, treating her as an equal like a member of the 
family; and these illiterate people are full of fine poetic 
songs embodying all the wisdom of the centuries. Mira 
speaks with less sympathy of the Muslims, whom she sees, 
contrary to what is usually said, as quite a different race, 
even in physical appearance; like Gandhi, she has very good 
friends among them, but in general the atmosphere is less 
trustworthy and pure. Mira says more about the popula- 
tion of the Ashram, which is not limited to humans; all the 
peoples of the jungle are allowed to come in, and as she 
describes the scene I seem to see again the ascetics of Sakun- 
tala. Since no animal or insect may be killed, they all 
frolic around, both outside and in. Mira’s room is cons- 
tantly being crossed by columns of ants of all sizes, who 
share her food with her; lizards and huge spiders run across 
her walls, and snakes come and go all the time, most of 
them very venomous. But there seems to be a secret pact 
between animals and men; the former recognize that the 
latter are doing them no harm, and they return the compli- 
ment. The fact remains that one constantly risks treading 
unintentionally on some reptile, which may in a moment 
of impatience show its displeasure with fatal resuIts^0?M5p. 
always takes her lantern when she has to walla^Sbodt at 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

night. She very often sees a long snake of a dangerous breed 
gliding in front of her doorway, but it has never done any- 
thing to her, and there are few accidents. I ask if Gandhi 
has taken the precaution of keeping serums against snake 
venom in the Ashram’s medicine-chest. Mira says no, but 
he does not stop other people, strangers in the house, from 
using these means. All he himself recommends is a little 
surgery in the affected area, opening the wound in the 
form of a cross and applying a corrosive substance (Mira 
does not give its name, but it is red in colour), then a 
clay poultice on top and a bandage. But she adds that this 
is not strong enough for some types of snake (the cobras, 
no doubt), whose bite invariably causes death within ten 
minutes. She does not seem to be worried about it; like all 
Gandhi’s disciples, she seems to entrust herself to the grace 
of God and put herself under his protection: “Whatever 
happens is His will.” 

Another pleasanter aspect of this life shared with the 
animals is their familiarity with the tribe of birds, who are 
constantly settling on the head or shoulders of Gandhi and 
Mira, and some of the species are delightful. Mira artless- 
ly makes the striking reflection that since her return to 
Europe the absence of insects and animals, particularly in 
the big cities, sends a shiver down her spine and gives her 
a feeling of emptiness; she feels as if some great epidemic 
has passed over Europe and exterminated millions of living 
creatures who were there to animate and gladden the world. 
(I forget to tell her that the walls and roof of my house 
sheltered millions of ants who were eating it away, and that 
without last year’s repairs its beams would have fallen about 
my ears. I cannot understand how the buildings over there 
can put up with those myriads of swarming little creatures.) 
Be that as it may, Mira will be glad to be back in India. 
Her return to England (where her mother died some months 
ago, alone and far away from her), instead of awakening 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


an old attachment, made her feel more strongly how foreign 
her native land was to her. She had a hidden anxiety that 
she might be forced to stay there— even if dead. We talk 
again of the early days of our acquaintanceship, and of how 
she discovered Gandhi through me. She is still deeply 
and tenderly grateful to me for it, and when she takes leave 
at the end (when we are told of Gandhi’s return), resting 
her brow on my shoulder, she bends down and unexpectedly 
kisses my hand. (I know that this is not meant for me, 
but for the miracle of which I was the instrument, which 
made her find her way and her master.) 

Meanwhile the meeting takes place in Geneva; huge 
crowds in Victoria Hall, the main boxes booked by the Gene- 
van haute bourgeoisie (hostile), the Journal de Geneve , the 
League of Nations; the pit and the galleries packed with 
enthusiastic supporters or Socialists; two opposing camps. 
Gandhi, simple and calm as ever, answers the questions cho- 
sen with a clarity which staggers his adversaries who are 
watching his every word and setting him traps. I shall 
give no account of this meeting , 1 important as it was, at 
which I was not present; there was not even a broadcast 
for me to listen to, as this time the Swiss radio service shut 
its doors; an announcement was made that as a result of 
some difficulties caused by the broadcast of the Lausanne 
meeting, the planned broadcast of the Geneva meeting 
would not take place. This is obviously on the request of 
the Journal de Geneve. But the Swiss bourgeoisie was W’rong 
if it thought that this would be enough to smother Gan- 
dhi’s dangerous voice; even after Lausanne it did not foie- 
see the calm audacity of his words before the public in 
Geneva and its repercussions among the thousands who 
heard it. (They must have kicked themselves afterwards 
for the licence they gave him by allowing him to speak 

1 An account appeared in the Ligtte’s journal, January 1932, Geneva 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

in Geneva.) So I shall not try to reproduce what he said, 
as the International Women’s League for Peace and Liberty, 
which organized the meeting, took the wise step of having 
it taken down in shorthand; I shall get myself a copy. . . . 

All I shall relate here is the impression he made, as 
reported by my sister. Gandhi tackled squarely and openly 
the two burning questions of capitalism and militarism, 
pursuing the latter on to grounds which the Swiss bourgeo- 
isie tries to pass off as sacrosanct (a “private hunting 
ground”), namely the problem of the armed neutral nation. 
On the first score, he said that Labour does not know its 
power, and that if it did, all it would need to do would 
be to stand and show itself for the whole of capitalism and 
the world built on it to collapse, since Labour is the only- 
real force in the world. On the second, he said that all 
militarisms and all armies were to be condemned, and more 
than all the rest those of a nation claiming to be neutral 
and without aggressive intent. When someone raised the 
insidious objection: “If a foreign army wanted to cross 
Switzerland in order to attack another nation, would it not 
be the duty of Switzerland to stop it and block the way with 
its own army?” he replied: “Certainly it would be your 
duty to stop it. But the only true way of doing so would' 
be by a wall of your own people, men, women and chil- 
dren, without arms. No army would dare to pass over their 
bodies, and if it did so once, it would not do so a second 
time, as it would be overwhelmed by the revolted con- 
science of the whole universe; thus your sacrifice would 
bear fruit.” 

He also spoke with scornful indifference (as if he had 
never heard of it) of the League of Nations, and recom- 
mended in its place an International Civil Service, broader 
and more comprehensive than that of Ceresole, extending to> 
all the sufferings of the universe. 

Applause from one part of the hall greeted the trick. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


questions, but the acclamations of the other part replied to 
Gandhi’s calm and decisive rejoinders. There seems to have 
been no kind of hostile demonstration, but the upper 
bourgeoisie of Geneva left in a state of unspeakable rage, and 
I have heard many echoes of that. It is just as well that the 
meeting took place the day before Gandhi left Switzerland, 
for if his stay had been longer, measures for his expulsion 
might well have been taken. In any case, another public 
meeting would have been forbidden. Furious articles appear- 
ed in the Swiss press next day. The Courrier de Monireux, which 
so far had felt obliged to be tactful, both to him and to me, 
carried a leading article to the effect that of ail the things 
Gandhi did in these five days in Switzerland, the best was 
to get out, and he was denounced as an instrument, con- 
scious (why not?) or unconscious, coming to Switzerland 
to disarm and destroy, so as to deliver her people unarmed 
into the hands of Communist aggressors. And they were 
not far off finding further proof of these treasonable tactics 
in the fact that Gandhi had been staying with “the Bolshe- 
vik Romain Rolland”. 

Gandhi stayed at Geneva only the exact time nece- 
ssary for the meeting; he left immediately afterwards with- 
out seeing anybody. He merely answered two requests, 
from Albert Thomas and Guglielmo Ferrero (who teaches 
at the University of Geneva), with truly regal informality, 
by assigning as place and time for their meeting — for Ferrero, 
on the train between Gland and Lausanne, and for Albert 
Thomas, between Lausanne and Montreux. The Ferreros 
(he and his wife, Gina Ferrero Lombroso), w T ho are elderly 
and respected, might well have taken offence at this, but 
Gandhi replied to Privat’s timid observation to that effect 
with a gesture of indifference; as it turned out they did not 
come to the rendezvous, but Mme. Ferrero made a point 
of excusing herself in a letter to me some days later, claim- 
ing that Gandhi’s summons had not reached them until 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

af r he had left. As to Albert Thomas, who tried in vain 
to catch Gandhi at the station, he sent me a frantic tele- 
gram, asking Gandhi to see him in the evening at Villeneuve, 
which in Gandhi’s absence I took upon myself to grant him. 
While on the subject, it is worth noting what Gandhi and 
Mira told me later. When Thomas visited him in London, 
Gandhi asked him: “Do you see Romain Rolland in Swit- 
zerland?” Thomas, embarrassed, said no, he didn’t. “Ah,” 
said Gandhi, “now I don’t like that!. . . . No, I don’t like 
that at all. . . .” And he amused himself by embarrassing 
his visitor and pressing the point: “I want you to go and see 
Romain Rolland in Villeneuve.” (Gandhi was still chuckling 
mischievously about it as he told me the tale.) (Truth 
to tell, I have no desire at all to be visited by Thomas; 
though I appreciate, as everyone does, his intelligence and 
his documentary activity in the International Office of Labour, 
I have little esteem for his character, which lacks independence 
and dignity. 

Gandhi is hardly back (having travelled, as usual, by 
third-class train) when he comes up to see me, without 
taking any time to rest, and we converse again from 4-45 
until after 6 o’clock. 

I say to him: “I’ve been thinking about your answer 
to the question in Lausanne when you said “ Truth is God ”, 
and I remember what you have said and written about this 
being a natural feeling with you ever since childhood (which 
Satyagraha, non-violence, was not! . . .) I have been ex- 
amining my own conscience. I have recognized in myself, 
ever since childhood, that truth to oneself is a vital thing, 
without which everything is rotten and there is nothing 
to build on. But there’s a difference between truth to one- 
self and truth to others. In the stiffing atmosphere of the 
little provincial town where I was living, I felt it quite 
impossible to express this second truth. Everywhere there 
was an oppressive sense of constraint, from the family, 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


the church, school and society. Being a weak little boy, 
I suffered from it, but since everyone else accepted it, I tried 
to believe that things were the way they should be. I was 
most distressed that I couldn’t bring myself to believe the 
religious mysteries which were taught me; I saw the others 
believing, and I couldn’t imagine that they were lying 
(or lying to themselves). When I was about 14 or 15, 
in Paris, it was worse still; there was the struggle for life, 
examinations, school, and there were many cases where 
it was impossible to express one’s true thought, even in the 
intellectual field. For instance there reigned at that time 
in the upper echelons of the University an official spiritualism 
to which one had to make a show of adhering in examina- 
tions. I liked philosophy and had intended to specialize 
in it, but I gave it up at the Ecole Normale Supmeure, so 
as not to have to write compositions or make declarations 
in which I would have to lie. When I finally started to 
be independent (which I bought very dearly, at the cost 
of almost complete solitude for ten years or thereabouts), 
I found myself faced with another difficulty even worse 
than the others: I saw the harm which might be done to 
the mass of humanity by the truth which to me is good 
and necessary. This was my greatest difficulty. I saw 
later that Tolstoy had known it too, and had never known 
how to free himself of it. For the whole of his life he was 
torn between truth and love, and he was never able to strike 
a balance between them; too often his emotional nature 
led him to half-betrayals of truth (particularly in his life). 
For my part, I found myself faced with the artistic problem 
of how to express completely the truths I conceived without 
them shattering or maddening those who were too weak to 
receive them menfully. The ancients got out of it easily 
by setting up classes of initiates who were the sole trustees 
of the whole truth. The democratic societies of today do 
not lend themselves to such barriers. I have never betrayed 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

my truth, and my worries about its danger have been partly 
diminished by my discovery that the “unpleasant” truth is 
not understood or not heard; people arrange it in away to 
suit themselves. But this discovery gave me no joy, and 
a truth betrayed in this way, if not by those who speak it, 
at least by those who listen (or rather do not listen) to it, is 
equally joyless. If it is true that “ truth is God ”, it seems to 
me that it lacks a very important attribute of God, which 
is Joy. For — and I insist on this — I cannot conceive of 
a God without joy. If I have been made out to be an 
apostle of grief because I have extolled Beethoven’s con- 
quest of joy through suffering, then my thought has been 
misunderstood and so has Beethoven’s; suffering cannot be 
an end in itself, merely a road to something else, a road 
which is forced on us, which we do not go out of our way 
to seek. I found this joy, which truth was not sufficient 
to prove to me, in beauty, and this is where I found my- 
self in opposition to Tolstoy; I attribute a capital importance 
to art and beauty. By this I mean true art and healthy 
beauty. Great art has harmony as its essence, and it brings 
peace, health and equilibrium to the soul. It communi- 
cates them at once by the senses and by the mind, for both 
senses and mind have the right to joy. Beauty manifests 
itself in many ways; beauty of line, beauty of sound, beauty 
of colours, etc., and at the bottom of them all, the inner 
order, the hidden harmony, which is in essence moral. The 
troubles of the soul are filtered and sublimated through it. 
Art is the bread of thousands of souls, above all in some 
refined races, who without beauty (either in nature or in 
art) would be destitute. All the different routes leading to 
peace and harmony are good; none of them must be closed, 
and the ideal would be to associate them all : — which happens 
in history at some supreme moments when all the inner 
forces of a people run together, producing books of religion, 
beauty, science and dreams for whole peoples. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


All this expose has an unexpressed double aim: to fight 
against the notion attributed to Gandhi that suffering is 
pleasing to God, and to assert the rights, which he seems 
sometimes to neglect, of beauty and the natural and exalting 
love which healthy men have for her. 

Gandhi replies: For me, the definition of truth is a 
universal one. The truth is made manifest in many ways. 
Any art which is inconsistent with truth, which is not linked 
to truth, is no art. I would not classify art as a thing dis- 
tinct from truth. I am against the formula “art for art’s 
sake”; for me, art must be based on truth, I reject beauti- 
ful things which pass for art if they express non-truth instead 
of truth. I would subscribe to the formula: “Art brings joy 
and is good”, — but on the condition I have stated. By 
truth in art I do not mean the exact reproduction of exterior 
objects; it is the living object which brings living joy 
to the soul and which must elevate the soul. If a work does 
not achieve this, it is worthless. If truth does not bring 
joy, it is because truth is not in you. . . . 

Then he speaks of a Hindu religious song of morning, 
and the holy formula “Sat-Chit-Ananda”: “Sat” meaning 
“truth”, “Chit” “that which lives” and “true knowledge” 
(i.e. not a knowledge void of true perception), and “ Ananda ” 
“ineffable joy”. In this conception truth is inseparable 
from joy. “Yet one must suffer in the search for truth; one 
must undergo disappointments, fatigues and afflictions with- 
out number; but despite everything you draw joy and feli- 
city from it. We have among our classics the story of 
Rishananda (?) who personifies truth; his life of suffering 
is a life of eternal joy.” 

He also quotes a Persian novel in which Sirin, the belov- 
ed, represents truth. Her lover, in order to reach her, has 
to cut through a mountain with a blunt instrument; he has 
to spend years at the task but he does not complain; his 
effort is joy, and he knows that at the end he will find Sirin. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Romain Rolland: I understand that, and it is my opi- 
nion too. But it’s not only about difficulties facing the seek- 
er after truth that I spoke; these difficulties I accept and 
love. I am thinking of another kind of suffering, that of 
responsibility. The thinker who does not fear the truth on his 
own account is worried about its effects on those who will 
be shaken by it. The great scientific discoveries made by 
Copernicus and the heroes of thought who followed him 
shook millions of people in their faith. Truth is always 
marching on, and not everyone can follow it without be- 
coming breathless and apprehensive. Truth in transition is 
often very hard for the majority of men. This is the pain 
of which I speak, not my own. 

Gandhi: Even in this case I would say that there must 
be a secret satisfaction, because that is the necessity of the 
thing. This is why we see in the writings of those who have 
gone through tortures (Kalidas?) that “the seeker after truth 
has a heart tender as the lotus and hard as granite”. 

I read to Gandhi tw r o thoughts of Goethe which harmo- 
nize with his: 

“I prefer the harmful truth to the useful error: the 
truth cures the pain that it may cause us.” (Poetry) 

“A harmful truth is useful, because it can harm only 
for a moment and it then leads to other truths which will 
be ever more useful; whilst a useful error is harmful, because 
it can be useful only for a moment and it leads us astray 
into other errors which will be ever more harmful.” (To 
Frau von Stein, 1787) 

And another: 

“All laws and all moral rules can be reduced to one 
single truth.” (A. V. Muller, 1819.) 

Gandhi listens and nods in satisfaction. 

Romain Rolland: I agree too, but I still say that it is 
often hard. 

Gandhi: There is joy in this hardness. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


(Mira and Desai smilingly hint that “Bapu” practises 
this joy; Gandhi laughs and admits that he can be, as 
people say of him, at once “gentle as the lamb” (or as the 
cow, as they would say in India and “hard as the tiger”.) 

Romain Rolland: Someone is always sacrificed. I’m not 
sorry for the leader, only for the weak who follow him. 

As the conversation goes on, we speak again of truth in 
art and its multiple forms. I say that I should like art al- 
ways to be accessible to the great mass of people, and, re- 
turning to the cathedrals, I say that at the time they were 
built Europe was closer to the thought of India — which 
Gandhi admits. “At present,” I add, “the truth is best 
expressed by the scientists; they are the greatest poets.” I 
then allude to recent astronomical discoveries which have 
broken through the envelope of our universe to see other 
universes floating beyond the Milky Way. 

Fifty years ago, in my youth, the triumph of material- 
ism was related to that of science; now it turns out today 
that science itself is explaining matter in terms of energy, 
in other words a spiritual principle. We are living in a 
fine age, despite all the disorders it brings with it. Happy 
the man who can live in it with a healthy body and a 
strong heart! 

Gandhi assents, his eyes shining. And we touch on the 
underside of scientific grandeur, the dizzy whirlpool of 
murderous inventions, machines of destruction, poison gas, 

Gandhi (confidently): This will kill itself. If such a 
war and such destructions take place and meet with no 
resistance, there will follow a revulsion against the horrible 
acts committed. It is not in human nature to advance 
without resistance and to fight, so to speak, in a vacuum. 
If a nation is heroic enough to submit to violence without 
responding to it, it will be the strongest possible object- 
lesson. But it cannot be done without absolute faith. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Romain Rolland: Nothing must be done by halves, — 
neither in evil nor in good. 

Gandhi speaks of the faith of Christopher Columbus. 
Without it he would not have discovered America. . . . 

An hour later, the evening prayer is held (the last 
among us) in the downstairs drawing room in the Villa 
Olga. After the chants in the darkness, Gandhi tells the 
little gathering that I am on his request going to go up- 
stairs to play him a piece of Beethoven, but since the room 
on the first floor is too small, he alone will go upstairs with 
me (also my sister and Mira); the others will stay below. 
This is done, and I play the andante from the Fifth Sym- 
phony; Gandhi expressly asked for Beethoven as he knows 
that Beethoven was the intermediary between Mira and 
myself, and hence that he owes Mira" to Beethoven. His 
disciples and secretaries as well, particularly Pyarelal, are 
profoundly imbued with the cult of Beethoven (they can 
hardly have heard much of him other than on the gramo- 
phone, but they know him by my books). After playing, I 
go to the divan where Gandhi is sitting and explain to 
him in a few words the inner conflict and victory which 
I can read in the pages he has just heard. Mira is very 
moved, for in all the years since she said goodbye to Europe 
she has not heard a note of Beethoven. (Gandhi, when we 
ask for his impression, replies with a mischievous and candid 
little laugh: “It must be good, since you say so!”) 

Then on Gandhi’s request I return to the piano and 
play the Elysian Fields scene from Orfeo, the first orches- 
tral piece and the flute melody. There is no time to take 
the repeats; Privat comes to collect Gandhi at the arranged 
time to go to the English college (Chillon), where Gandhi 
agreed to speak for half an hour. He meets Albert Tho- 
mas at the bottom of my stairs as he arrives, and takes him 
with him. When he returns half an hour later (his chat 
with the young English boys went very well, they tell me; 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


they asked him intelligent questions), a delegation of little 
girls from the Villeneuve schools and choral society comes to 
give him an aubade (at about 9 p.m.) under his windows 
at the Villa Lionnette. They sing him the Ranz des Vackes, 
and the delighted Indians are convinced that the singers 
are genuine cowherds. (We refrain from disillusioning them, 
nor do we tell the singers of Villeneuve who do not know 
that in India Krishna was the divine cowherd.) 

Meanwhile I have quite a long conversation with Pyare- 
lal. My sister found herself with him in the railway com- 
partment between Villeneuve and Geneva, and managed 
to win the confidence of this highly intense young man who 
finds it difficult to talk about himself and whose features 
show little of the sensitive and tender soul within. (He him- 
self sadly says: “I’m not attractive, I put people off. . . .”) 
He was so grateful to her that he told his whole life-story, 
and now that he has been set in motion he tells us every- 
thing openly: his childhood upbringing by an uncle who was 
as kind to him as a father and whose heart must have bled 
when he broke with his planned career and gave up hopes 
of a good job to follow Gandhi, to whom he is devoted 
body and soul. But I believe the uncle has finally come 
to understand, after many years of estrangement. Pyarelal 
also tells me (and my sister translates) what my books have 
meant to him; first my Vie de Tolstoi , some passages of which 
had a decisive influence on him, real illuminations. Then 
Jean-Christophe, and the Beethoven. I am struck by the deep 
love of art among these young disciples of Gandhi; this 
makes all the more impressive their renunciation of all the en- 
joyment which art might bring them; but the flame still burns 
within them. Mira, on my request, has chosen some books 
from my bookshelves for me to give to these young people: 
for Pyarelal, my Goethe et Beethoven in English ; for Devdas the 
Vie de Tolstoi in English; I give Mira herself the big French 
edition of Beethoven : les Epoqnes criatrices; for Takata, present 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

at the conversation with Pyarelal, the new French edition 
of Goethe et Beethoven. We all feel much sympathy for our dear 
Takata. He is even more intense than Pyarelal, but more 
unpolished, violent and stormy by nature, and he finds it 
very difficult to say anything ; he emits jerky syllables, bursts 
of laughter and stifled sighs; one often feels he is on the 
point of bursting into tears and sobbing, and then he represses 
it all and gasps: with his thick black mop of hair he looks 
like some lion of unknown breed drawn by Hokusai. His 
life in Paris (or rather Clamart, on the edge of the woods) 
must be one of grinding poverty, moral distress and savage 
enthusiasm for art. Some years ago he was imprisoned in 
Japan as a Communist; he was even tortured in prison, and 
he shows with a nervous laugh one of his fingers which still 
bears the deforming scars of the steel wire tied round it to 
crush it. He left his wife and children in Japan, and their 
situation must be as critical as his own. He dare not mix 
with the literary circles in Paris which would be closest to 
his thought, as he is closely watched by his own Embassy, 
and at the least suspicion of Communism he would be deno- 
unced to the French police and expelled. So he is completely 
isolated in his art, and I have no idea how he manages to 
live; I think he very occasionally receives a small sum of 
money from Japan, but for some months the crisis there 
has stopped anything from being sent. Alongside this he 
is very proud, and refuses my offers of help. I slip a bank- 
note into his pocket by force, and he nearly suffocates with 
emotion; he swallows his tears, says nothing and sighs deeply. 
I say goodbye to him and we arrange for him to come 
again in spring to do my bust. He took three sittings over 
Gandhi’s and he seems satisfied with his clay model. 

On Friday, 1 1 December, the day of his departure, 
Gandhi comes to see me early, just after 9 o’clock, and we 
have our last conversation, rich, affectionate and varied. 

First we discuss Italy. Gandhi has sent Scarpa a tele- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


gram saying that he will not agree to come to the meeting 
of the Istituto di Cultura unless he is free to say exactly 
what he wants about anything. Some hours later, as if 
by chance, he received a telegram from Gentile, who was 
to have chaired the meeting, apologizing for having to be 
away on exactly the two days Gandhi had said he would 
spend in Rome. They have realized that they cannot exploit 
Gandhi for the benefit of Fascism, and that his words would 
be more dangerous than useful. 

I finish briefing Gandhi by telling him of the oath 
demanded by the Fascists from university professors, and 
the protests published against this oath by a dozen of them, 
the main names in university science in Italy. I also speak 
of the Vatican, which now accepts the oath, with Jesuitical 

Then my sister talks to him about Oxford, which she 
knows well and loves. Gandhi tells her his impressions of 
his visit to Oxford. “Fine young men,” conservative but 
of generous spirit, who will be of some help to him in the 
battle. He says that the beauty of the Oxford colleges, the 
buildings and works of art, was dimmed in his eyes by 
thoughts of the world-wide exploitation which caused these 
riches to flourish. 

In Lancashire, Gandhi much appreciated the textile 
workers; he found them very intelligent: “They spoke with 
fine detachment. They might have seen me as their enemy, 
since my campaign of non-co-operation has ruined them, but 
I explained to them that the real cause of their ruin was 
world-wide, not the Indian boycott, and we separated the 
best of friends. The employers were very nice as well; a 
friendly atmosphere everywhere.” 

“Miss Lester showed me the poorer quarters in London, 
the slums. But by my standards these poor people were 
wealthy; their furniture was worth all of £ 50f(!!}, and some 
of them even had a piano.” 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

(I strongly suspect Miss Lester, whose British sense of 
pride is well developed, of having hidden the real poverty 
from Gandhi — in the same way as in Chicago the American 
branch of the Women’s League for Peace and Liberty hid 
the immigrant quarters from the foreign delegates, and even 
showed signs of offence when some of them, Mme. Jouve 
and Mme. Duchine got away and went in search of them.) 

I am astonished by the description of these slums, but 
I do not want to argue, and I contrast them with the pre- 
cise descriptions of poverty in Paris published by the Oeuvre 
du Moulin Vert, which specializes in aid for large families. 
I have terrible facts to quote, and I also use the enquiry made 
in the Paris suburbs by a young Protestant student among 
unskilled labourers whose lives he shared for six months. 
I show him the depths of poverty to be found there, and 
I do not believe it possible for India to fall much lower. 
Gandhi adds a few observations on the situation of workers 
in Wales, which seems to be very bad. 

I speak of the United States and the antagonism which 
has grown there between American workers and unprotected 
foreign immigrants, — as in Europe, between skilled and 
unskilled labourers. 

I throw out the idea that Europe seems to be moving 
towards a privileged class of labourers with a sort of sacri- 
ficed proletariat below it for hard and repulsive jobs. This 
proletariat, recruited among foreigners and the conquered 
races of Africa and Asia in particular, would end up by for- 
ming a class'bf slaves, as in the time of the Roman Empire, 
when the Roman plebs unloaded its labour — and also its 
military defence — on to the plebs of the rest of the world. 
I also speak, uncomplimentarily, of Kalergi’s “Pan-Europe”. 

Afterwards I ask Gandhi to reply to the questions given 
to me by Monatte’s Revolution Prolitarienne . This is Gandhi’s 
reply (the text was taken down by Macha and Pyarelal) : 

First question : Let us admit, with you, that for a peo- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


pie under a foreign domination, the necessity for first freeing 
themselves from the invader forces them into a provisory 
union of classes and to the formation of one single national 
bloc. But events move quickly, and a native bourgeoisie 
and capitalism are developing. Your good advice to the 
Parsees (23 March 1921) will not stop capital from becoming 
concentrated, in your land as elsewhere, in the hands of a 
small number. The fight against the British oppressor will 
be followed inevitably by the fight against the Indian opp- 
ressors. Will you then continue to ask the workers to 
“further the interests of their employers?” 

Gandhi replies: I make no distinction between the Euro- 
pean and the indigenous capitalist. My works treat of the struggle 
between the workers in factories and the owners of those 
factories apart from the national struggle. It is true that 
I do not consider antagonism between capital and labour 
to be inevitable. Though it might be difficult, I think it 
would be possible to establish a harmony between them. 
But if it were proved that such harmony were impossible in one 
factory or another , I should not hesitate to increase the power of 
labour ( that is to say the organized workeis ) to such an extent 
that the destruction of capital would result , or its complete trans- 
ference into the hands of labour. In this case as in every other, 
Satyagraha would force capital to the wall so that it would 
destroy itself on the day when its destruction would be 
judged to be inevitable. And even if capitalism should 
come into the national struggle, I should not consider its 
interests if they were proved to be in opposition to those of 
the community. But I do not w’ish to raise a quarrel with 
capital at this juncture, unless it becomes absolutely neces- 
sary to do so. It would make the difficult problem of the 
moment still more difficult. 

Second question: You have just renewed your contact 
with the countries of Western Europe, and in England you 
have seen the mass of workers, or rather unemployed, who 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

are the victims of the crisis in capitalism. They are not 
faced, as you are, with the need to form a united front 
against the foreign yoke. After making contact with the Wes- 
ts in proletariat in these troubled times, would you blame it for practi- 
sing class warfare ? 

Gandhi replies: My observations have led me to the 
conclusion that in England's case the unemployed have not 
many reasons to complain of the capitalist. I am con- 
vinced that if the capitalist arrived at the end of his re- 
sources and gave away all his capital today to be dis- 
tributed among the workers, reducing himself to the rank 
of worker at the same time, this sacrifice would not help 
the working class at all. The real remedy at the present time, 
as far as distress in England is concerned , is to reorganize the 
whole of life. Since England now shares world trade with 
America, Japan, Italy and other nations, English capital 
cannot usefully be employed in many existing English in- 
dustries. In these circumstances the unemployed must first 
revise their standard of living, and secondly find work in 
some domestic craft which they can do in their own homes, 
or else return to agriculture. The capitalist has hardly any 
role to play in all this rearrangement. The capitalist is of 
no use to the unemployed, either by becoming a philan- 
thropist or by transferring his capital abroad. 

Romain Rolland: England is still enjoying a privileged 
insular situation even in its economic crisis, and one can't 
draw any conclusions about Continental Europe from her 
example; in fact it’s precisely the English way of treating her 
unemployed which has caused worry and indignation among 
the Continental bourgeoisie. In Germany there’s no ques- 
tion of a “dole”, merely the exploitation of unemployed 
labourers at the lowest possible price. As to those workers 
who don’t seem useful to the exploiters (such as the young 
intellectuals), then the exploiters don’t care and are content 
to let them starve. There’s a supreme scorn for human life 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


in the whole of post-war Europe, particularly in the German 
countries. Since the peace treaties thousands, perhaps mil- 
lions in Germany and Austria have died of hunger, malnu- 
trition and poverty, and all in total silence. In this black 
winter of crisis, there's not a week that passes in Germany 
without suicides caused by hunger, lack of work, or despair. 
The exploitation of low-price labour is completely pitiless; 
if nationals don’t agree to low salaries, foreign workers are 
brought in. The situation in Continental Europe is different 
from that in England. Our French bourgeois press is furi- 
ous at the Labour Party and the corrupt example it’s giving 
the world by handing out a dole to the unemployed. 

Gandhi (resuming) : If, nevertheless, there are circum- 
stances in which the capitalist seeks to take advantage of 
poverty and a surplus of labour by offering the lowest pos- 
sible salaries, although he is in a position to pay much 
higher salaries, then Labour undoubtedly has a remedy 
at its disposal. If there is perfect unity among the workers, 
I am certain that Labour can dictate its own terms. It 
would be enough for it to withhold labour on any condi- 
tions but its own, and if it is well enough organized to 
block the entry of foreign labour, capital will have to 
give in. 

Romain Rolland: You say that if Labour achieves per- 
fect unity among labourers it will easily gain the upper 
hand over Capital. I agree with you, but you have to take 
account of human weakness. In reality the workers are not 
united, as the capitalists have their intrigues; they foster 
divisions and buy “blackleg” labour. In this case, the 
minority of perceptive and energetic workers who under- 
stand the situation feel justified in forcing the masses to form 
this unity. This is the dictatorship oj the proletariat, the cons- 
cious proletariat in the interests of the proletarian mass 
•whose' support it obtains by force. 

Gandhi: I am totally against this, as it would mean 


Roxnain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Labour seizing Capital, and seizing Capital is the wrong way 
of going about it. If you set a bad example to Labour, then 
Labour will never make the most of its strength. I started 
in India with very few workers. The union of textile wor- 
kers in Ahmedabad was torn by dissensions, but I was in- 
flexible; I laid down rules to direct the workers and prevent 
all violence, and the result is that this union now contains 
66,000 workers; most of them are illiterate, but they under- 
stand that their destiny and their security are in their own 
hands. I would not want to make them believe they are a 
powerless and dependent class; I teach them that they are 
the true capitalists, for it is not metallic coin that con- 
stitutes capital, but the will and the abilities of Labour. 
This is their unbounded source of capital. At present there 
may be evidence of disorganization, and it can be seen that 
Labour is exposed to the danger of being exploited by 
Capital. But I shall continue to teach them the dignity of 
Labour. I shall wait for years, if necessary, to build this 
organization, but I shall not accept the idea of a dictatorship 
based on violence. We have seen Labour organized on this 
violent basis in Bombay, and Labour was defeated there. 
But if they were willing to act on my advice, Labour would 
have the upper hand over Capital; otherwise Labour will 
destroy itself, and there are threatening signs of it happening 
in Bombay. But so far Labour in Bombay has not gone 
as far as murder; the parallel of our example of non-violence 
in Ahmedabad is holding them back. A small group of 
Communists exists in Bombay, trying to exploit the workers 
for their own ends; so far they have not succeeded, at least 
not before my departure from India; I am not well infor- 
med of what has happened since. I am teaching Labour 
this one lesson: that there is no need for them to stay attach- 
ed to a factory. In Ahmedabad we have tried to teach the 
workers to make themselves absolutely independent of the 
y_ if they cannot earn there what they consider to- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


be their due, they should be satisfied with the modest gains 
they can make from hand-spinning or stone-breaking! The 
skilled worker must not look with scorn upon non-skilled 
work. It is better to leave the factory for low paid inde- 
pendent work than to accept dishonourable wages from 
the factory. The workers’ task is to become independent and 
able to dictate their conditions when there is not a surplus 
of labour. As to blacklegs, we try to take command over 
foreign labour as well. Labour has its process of evolution, 
as does everything else, and I have no desire to interrupt 
it by introducing the disturbing factor of violence. 

Romain Rolland does not pursue this subject, prefer- 
ring to ask a question about certain methods of non-violence: 

“Acts of crime and cruelty among men are sometimes 
caused by a morbid, pathological state. In all society there 
are men who do harm to others and are really in need 
of treatment. What should be the attitude of the non-violent 
towards these sick men and madmen in order to protect 
society against them? How can one act here without 
violence ?” 

Gandhi: I should keep them under constraint, and 
I should not call it violence. If my brother went mad, I 
would put irons on his wrists to prevent him from doing 
any harm, but I would not use violence against him, as 
there would be no motive for using it. Nor would my 
brother feel that violence was being used against him. On 
the contrary, when he comes to his senses, he will thank 
me for having contained him. I must not take account 
of his resistance during his state of disequilibrium, as my 
action would be inspired by unadulterated love. It has 
no egoist motive behind it, not even the desire to protect 
myself against him. I know that if, in binding his hands, 
I risk being struck by him, I will pay no attention to it. 
I am binding his hands so that he may resume his mental 
equilibrium. If I bind them it is not to save myself; if I 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

could save him by allowing myself to be wounded by him, 
I would do so. I would act in the same way towards these 
half-mad people of whom you speak. I would put them 
in infirmaries, not under the guard of harsh gaolers, but 
surrounding them with care; I would have them looked 
after by specialists in these sicknesses and their treatment. 
But all this is only symptomatic treatment; I would go deeper 
and try to treat the causes. It is present-day society which 
gives birth to criminals of this type. In my opinion the 
root cause is the race for profit, competition and forced 
levelling (“the destruction of distances”). This is why 
I would reorganize society. I would appoint experts to find 
out the special and underlying causes, and then we would 
investigate how to treat not only these crimes, committed 
in a morbid state of mind, but all sorts of crimes. 

I then submit to Gandhi some questions given to me 
for him by a German teacher of religion, Erich Schramm, 
of Offenbach: 

First Question: What do you call God ? Is he a spiritual 
personality or a force reigning over the world? 

Gandhi replies: God is not a person , but an immutable law. 
And in this case the law and its Maker are one. In ordinary 
experience the word “law” means books of law, but here 
when I speak of law, I mean the living law. That is what 
God is. And this law does not change; it is eternal. It is not 
a personal God who changes with changing circumstances. 
God is an eternal principle, and that is why I have 
said that Truth is God. 

Second Question: What do you think of Christians ? 

Gandhi has already replied in Lausanne, and he re- 
peats his formula: “Christianity is good, but the Christians 
are bad.” 

Third Question: Would Gandhi agree to join an or- 
ganization for universal humanitarianism, holding the view 
that the Universe is a great secret and that all that is 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


necessary is to listen to the small voice which speaks with- 
in each one of us? 

Gandhi replies: I have often been asked to associate 
myself with organizations and I have always said no! For 
I have usually found that the people in these organizations 
are either honest simpletons, or charlatans speculating 
on apparently praiseworthy objects. In London, there is a 
league calling itself the “World League of Ahimsa”, headed 
by a pastor and his wife. I saw that there was no more 
Ahimsa in them than in the table in front of me; they 
were working for this organization in order to live from 
it. I refused to allow my name to be associated with this 
league; I even refused to put my signature to the journal 
they published. I told them that they should find other 
means of earning their living. If this question (Schramm’s' 
means whether I would agree to join an organization founded 
by the questioner, my answer is no! 

At the end of this conversation. Max Kettel, the press 
photographer from Geneva, who has taken an excellent 
series of snapshots of Gandhi and Mira at Villeneuve (out 
walking, or in the villa garden), is allowed to take two poses 
of our little assembly in my room. (In one of the two, which 
has since been published, I have three arms; mine and 
one of Macha’s, hidden behind me, wearing a wrist-watch. 

. . . But there is no sign of the watch which holds such 
an honourable place in Gandhi’s attire, since it is the only 
thing he keeps on, with his loin-cloth, when naked; here 
he hides it in his hand under his burnous. He never takes 
it off; he is a man of punctuality to the minute.) 

We take our leave even more affectionately than on the 
other occasions, since this is the last time. The weather 
is cold and bright, and I do not want to let my guests 
go without taking them to the station. This is the first 
time I have been outside for a fortnight. 

The cars carry the numerous pieces of hand luggage and 


Ramain Holland. and Gandhi : Correspondence 

the women, but Gandhi, as usual, goes by foot. On the 
way he stops to please a deformed little man who keeps a 
drinks stall (non-alcoholic !) in a tiny chalet suspended over 
the railway, at the corner of the Ghemin Byron and the 
main road; he even goes in for a moment. On the platform 
at Villeneuve station, a large crowd presses round us, curious 
but sympathetic. An old woman holds out her hand to 
Gandhi and they exchange a few words, only their eyes 
understanding each other. As usual Gandhi's head and 
skinny legs are bare, but he is well wrapped up in his toga- 
like robe. The Dent du Midi and the snowy mountain peaks 
in the sun give him a last belated greeting. The train ar- 
rives. A third-class carriage has been reserved by the rail- 
way company for the Indians and their suite (for they are 
being escorted to Milan, and perhaps to Rome, by a few 
faithful followers: Edmond Privat and his wife. Miss Lester, 
Louisette Guieyesse, an Austrian lady from Graz, who shows 
off to all comers a book by her in which Gandhi wrote a few 
indulgent words some years ago (Frau Standemath) and 
others, plus the inevitable English and Swiss policemen, 
who never take their eyes off the dangerous man in his 
passage across Europe, a situation which Gandhi tolerates 
with friendly irony; what does it matter to him, as he 
deliberately says everything openly? Far from having some- 
thing to hide, he is pleased to be heard. . . .) 

At the moment of hoisting his heron-like feet nimbly 
on to the carriage’s high step, Gandhi embraces me again; 
for the last time I rest my cheek on his close-cropped, 
stubbly pate; then Mira and the rest, with filial respect. 
Mira leans out of the window of the moving train and we 
wave goodbye until the train is out of sight. And I go 
home to my villa in Dr. Niehans 5 car. 

Letters) Diary Extracts 


194. Extract from Mahadev Desai’s Diary 

Villeneu ve 
December 6, 1931 

Gandhiji: I would have to take Scarpel 1 literally and 
what I would want to do is to speak in their presence to the 
people the very things I should speak out. 

Romain Rolland: Then you should have with you 
American reporters. 

G.: It would be against my nature to make these 
arrangements beforehand. 

R. R.: They will surround you with people, English 
and American, who are Fascists. Your voice must break the 
cordon for the people of Italy. 

G.: I would make it a condition also that I would 
not like to speak to them about neutral matters. This visit 
has come to me unsought. Let us take it for granted that in 
Italian press every word will be distorted. In Free England 
too my words were distorted and message boycotted. In 
France too wild things have been written in Figaro. 

R. R.: The other danger. You will speak, but others 
will speak against you and you will not understand it. 

G. : I would do my duty and leave the results. 

R. R.: You have a duty to speak to the poor people. 

G. : I feel that it is impossible for any person to take 
these meticulous precautions. 

R. R.: Always you must have someone with you. 

1 It had beefi suggested that Gandhiji should visit Italy and see 
the Pope and Mussolini. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

G The immediate effect will be that Italian press 
will misrepresent me, but the distant effect of a good word 
spoken or a good thing shown must be good. We must run 
the risk provided we are sure that I would not fall a prey to 

R. R. : You will meet intellectuals — people with in- 
tellectual mask, but not the people like Formichi, Gentile, etc. 

G ..* I saw your great pain and I realized with what 
enormous labours you had reached your conclusions on the 
situation. On the other hand I have been built diffe- 
rently. Whatever conclusions I have reached have not 
been through historical studies at all. History has played the 
least part in my make. A scoffer would say that I have 
been empirical in my methods and all my conclusions 
are based on my so-called experience. I call it so-called 
because there is a danger of self-delusion. I know many 
lunatics who believe in certain things as if they were their 
own experiences. But he has some belief as regards his 
wife and children, and it is impossible to dislodge him 
from what he calls his experience and the dividing line bet- 
ween his experience and mine may be very thin. Never- 
theless my experience has precedents. Saints have based 
their institutions on experiences and, after all, the world 
now believes that the experiences they had recorded were 
correct and also that they had been tested by the histo- 
rical and analytical methods. My experience has not 
altogether been baseless and the whole experience regarding 
non-violence and non-co-operation has a foundation of this 
character and so, whilst I was listening to yesterday’s pene- 
trating discourse, I said, “How can I react to this?” I 
said: "I should say such is my faith and I must work for 
it.” It was an awful problem. Whilst non-violence may 
work in India, it may not answer at all in Europe. It does 
not baffle me for the simple reason that I shodld not be able 
to deliver the message of non-violence to Europe, except 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


that it may percolate through India. I may never be able 
to deliver such a message, but God may have many things 
in store for me I have met many enlightened Englishmen 
and also foreigners and I have said that you must not move 
unless you have faith to such an extent that you would have 
faith in you even if the world was against you; and you 
will then have ways and means coming to your rescue. It 
is, therefore, my firm belief that non-violence alone will save 
Europe; otherwise I see nothing but perdition. A process of 
disintegration is going on in front of me. Things in Russia 
may be a puzzle. I have spoken least about Russia, but deep 
down in me I am full of the profound distrust of things 
happening in Russia. It seems to be a challenge to non- 
violence. Just now it seems to be working well, but the 
basis is force. I do not know how long that force is going 
to be effective in keeping that society, that country to this 
narrow path. The Indians who are under the influence of 
Russian methods are betraying intolerance of an extreme 
type. The result is that those who are under it are under a 
system of terrorism. So I follow the Russian experiment 
with a fundamental distrust. I have cross-questioned every 
Englishman and American who has been to Russia. They 
have seemed to me to be impartial observers. The other 
day Lord Lothian and Bernard Shaw went to Russia. 
Lothian’s testimony is decidedly that he does not know how 
far force is going to remould society. Bernard Shaw has 
written enthusiastically. In his conversation with me, I 
missed that enthusiasm and I did not draw him out com- 
pletely. On the contrary he was interested in Indian 
matters. So I see that even for Europe there is need for non- 
violence. It needs no big organization. It somehow or other 
organizes itself. There ought to be at the head someone 
who is non-violent in character, with faith immovable as a 
mountain, and so long as this man has not come to the 
surface we must wait and watch and pray. 


Remain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

R. R. : I sent you letters addressed to Runham Brown. 
Non-resistance will be successful in the distant future. But 
the question is immediate. In 20 years European civilization 
may perish. I have doubts about the method of non-violence. 
In 20 years’ time everything would be decided. What 
should we do in the interval? 

G. : I said somewhat to this effect. The world is really 
idolatrous. Islam is idolatrous, and so is Protestant Chris- 
tianity. It wants to see something through one of the five 
senses. That is what I call idolatry. It wants an ocular 
demonstration and, if India can successfully give the demon- 
stration, the thing becomes easy. I am clear India should 
not need 20 years and, if India can come to real freedom 
through non-violence the world would know non-violence, 
and then the whole world would take it. I want to deve- 
lop world opinion so that England will be ashamed to do 
the wrong thing. But whether that can come about, or whe- 
ther this war others will fight or not, I do not know. But 
I am certain that out of intense non-violence only good can 
come. There is no doubt about it that English opinion has 
undergone a revolutionary change — not to a satisfactory- 
degree. I attribute it to non-violence. Some brilliant Eng- 
lishmen — Gilbert Murray [for instance] — do not agree and 
don’t make admission. I do not want it. The thing is there 
and anyone can see that, but for the fight of non-violence, 
the so-called R.T.C. would not have met. So I have a hope 
that after we have gone through . . A I should have no 
difficulty in covering the rest of the ground. I know the diffe- 
rence, but I cannot lose faith. I have to build on the 
self-dedication of the few who have given their lives to it. 
The same thing happened to me in South Africa. The same 
thing happened in India where I did not know that I 
could give a definite battle. We would be able to give that 

1 A few words that follow are not clear in the source. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


battle. Beyond that I am not able to suggest anything 
further. If you can deal with the Indian situation in the 
correct manner, the European will be and cannot but be 

R. R.: Non-resistance has been applied in some cases, 
but our difficulties are double and triple. Indians have 
been ill-treated, but I do not think that they have been 
as ill-treated as [people in] Italy. Forced exploitation 
through work by children. There must be a gospel to 
preach to the miserable people. 

In Russia you must know what the conditions were. 
What could non-violence do in Russia? Have we the right 
to ask them to be non-violent to Europe? Should we force 
them to yield to Europe? 

G.: With reference to European proletariat, the rela- 
tions between employers and employed were fairly happy. 
But I said that the remedy did not come through giving 
battle to capitalists but in giving battle to themselves. 
They would then become their own employers. They look 
to capital to find their labour. If the capitalists gave them 
all the capital, they would not be happy and they could 
not make use of it even for one full year. I said to them, 
therefore, “revive your cottage industry”. It is being 
adopted in Wales. Brave, stalwart minds and majority of 
them unemployed — and unemployment will increase as oil 
wells increase. Not one of them should be living upon 

R. R. : The danger in Europe is in a large middle class 
which lives in comfort at the expense of others. After the 
war France was told Germany would pay. In France they 
are trying to prepare an Asiatic Army and go back to the 
times of the Roman Empire. 

India is right — you are acting in the interest of man- 
kind. Poverty has not yet come to France, though it has 
come to Germany. Our part is to be with the oppressed. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

G ..* There, too, does not the remedy lie with the op- 
pressed? If they ceased to co-operate with the exploiter, 
deliverance would come. 

Those who have no deep religious feeling are tempted 
by salaries and material comforts. World’s greatest works 
are chemical industries which have for their object violence. 
The gospel of poverty and self-abnegation must be preached. 

195. Extract from Mahadev Desai’s Diary 


December 9, 1931 

Gandhi ji: I believe and don’t believe in the sincerity of 
MacDonald, as in a sense he means to stand by the decla- 
ration he has made, but he must also know that the decla- 
ration does not mean responsibility at the Centre and yet 
he says it contains responsibility at the Centre and wants 
you to believe what is not true. There is another sense also 
in which he has appeared to me as insincere — not open but 
evasive in his conversation — and so I could not form an al- 
together good opinion of him. He carries a responsibility 
on his shoulders which he can ill afford to bear. He is 
overworked, and in me he has a difficult subject to deal 
with. He finds me a fighter; on the other hand, my demand 
seems to be pitched so high that he cannot circumvent me 
and so he gives me the idea of an insincere man. It may 
be weakness and not insincerity. 

Romain Rolland: He wrote beautifully about India. 

G. : His views are favourable even today, but ‘then he 
had no responsibility. Today he has. 

R. R.: His statement was impertinent. Your last speech 
at R.T.C. has much moved many people. 

G .: “Extraordinary speech openly inspired by Bol- 
shevik ideas.” That was the speech at the Federal Structure 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Committee on commercial discrimination. It did create 
consternation among my friends. 

I said I or Congress would not discriminate against a 
person because he was an Englishman, but there would be 
discrimination on other grounds, and I presented him with 
the formula : any interest in conflict with the national interest 
or not legitimately acquired, I said, would be taken over 
by the State and I said that it would apply to Europeans of 
India. This, I said, would not be done by an executive 
order but by the order from the Federal Court. 

[The Ordinance] is an inhuman document, worse 
than the Rowlatt Act. The menace to the Government of 
India from its own subordinates is of a different character. 
They disregarded instructions of a liberal nature, which are 
rare, but they are ready to carry out all instructions of a 
destructive character. Whereas the Central power is not 
able to exact discipline. I have called the Civil Service of 
India the greatest political freemasonry. The Secret Service 
is nothing before this snake-like coil of Civil Service. . . . 

i£. R. : The German youth is quite different from what 
he was before war. Before war they believed in the con- 
crete value of power. They have seen it crushed. The new 
youth lives in a state of relativism — no wonder they come 
from Einstein’s place. To the German youth France seems 
to be a country of old values, so that German youth is 
ready to follow new ideals. They are angry with France 
which is a dead weight on the past. We can’t judge Europe 
by the victor. 

G.: The Indian youth may not be capable of heroic 
self-sacrifice, but it is coming under the influence of non- 


Komain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

196. Extract from Mahadev Desai’s Diary 

[On or after December 10, 193I\ l 

R. R Cruelty or wickedness in man is not caused by 
will, but by morbid taste. What would non-resistance do to 
preserve society from these half-responsible people? 

G.: I do not need to use violence at all. But I would 
need to keep them under restraint. I would use some social 
force. I would not call it violence. My brother becomes 
a lunatic and I put iron on his hands. 

There is no use of violence when the motive is lacking. 
Nor would he feel the violence. On the contrary, when he 
comes to his senses, he would thank me for it. In his lunacy 
he would feel the violence, offer resistance to it. I would 
not mind the resistance because my action would be dictated 
by unadulterated love; there is not even the selfishness of 
loving behind it. If I am tying his hands, it is not in order 
to save myself from being hurt. If I felt that I should hurt 
myself by trying to save him, I should subject myself to 
being hurt. In the same way I should treat these half-crazy 
men, treat them as sick men, put them in an infirmary and 
put them [not] under heartless jailors but under medical 
men who have studied their conditions and surround them 
by kind nurses. That is only dealing with the system. 

1 The source mentions no date, but this was recorded after the 
meeting in Geneva on December 10. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


197. Romain Rolland to General Moris 

Telegram , 11 December 1931 
General Moris Monte Mario Rome. 

Gandhi arriving Rome Saturday afternoon leaving Monday 
stop could he possibly stay with you with two disciples stop 
friendly greetings. 

Romain Rolland 

198. Extract from Gandhi’s Diary 

Rome, December 12, Saturday 

Spun 204 rounds. Arrived at Rome at 8-30 in the 
morning. Received letter to the effect that the Pope could 
not receive me. Three of us stayed with General Moris, 
the others in a hotel. Went to see the Vatican in the after- 
noon. At 6 o’clock Mussolini. £ 20 to Maud. 

On Way to Brindisi, December 13, Sunday 
Spun 180 rounds. Tolstoy’s daughter came in the morn- 
ing; schools for young people, concessions to women, the 
forum, a gathering at Scarpa’s, the Princess called and Ama- 
nullah*s secretary. Left at 10-40 at night. The Privats are 
with me. 

199. Extract from Romain Rolland 5 s Diary 

December 1931.- From the news sent to us (prudently, 
because of the Fascist censorship) in letters from Mme. Privat 
in Rome and Mira in Brindisi, then, more freely, from Miss 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Lester on her way back through Switzerland, this is what we 
learn : 

At Milan there was a huge crowd awaiting Gandhi’s 
arrival which greeted him with warm sympathy; it seems 
to have been a body distinct from the Fascist groups, which 
were there on the alert. A first-class carriage was made 
available for Gandhi’s journey across Italy, and going against 
his habits for once (why I do not know), Gandhi got into 
it. The same sympathetic crowd in Rome. General Moris 
took Gandhi, Mira and Desai in his car to his Monte Mario 
villa; the others went to a hotel. Gandhi and the Indians 
were delighted by General Moris’ hospitality, and in gene- 
ral, as all Indians do, they felt “at home” in Italy. My friend 
Sofia Bertolini, related by marriage to the Moris family, 
tells me of an evening spent with them in the lovely calm 
villa, surrounded by parasol pines and overlooking the whole 
Campagna, framed in the distance by the harmonious chain 
of the Sabine hills. (I can still see it clearly after forty 
years. . .) It was the hour for the prayers; the lights were 
out in front of the olive-wood fire; a young royal princess 
paid a visit, quite contrary to etiquette, and as always it 
made an acute and deep impression on everyone there. 
Gandhi was very gay and very mischievous. Mussolini said 
he wanted to see him, and since this desire was reciprocated 
(the holy man has kept one little demon, that of curiosity; 
I understand and share it — and at times it gets the better of 
me — but I resist it, and I could have wished Gandhi had 
resisted on this occasion), Gandhi went to see the Duce , with 
Mira, Desai and General Moris. Mussolini made himself 
pleasant; he advanced to meet him as far as the middle 
of the room and made Mira sit down with him, but he let 
Desai and the old General remain standing, so as to make 
clear his authority, as the latter gently remarked. The 
conversation lasted about twenty minutes, and we do not 
know what was said, but I am sure Gandhi calmly affirmed 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


his “unpleasant” truths, and probably the Duce cynically 
acquiesced. What I do know, from Miss Lester’s amusing 
letter, is that Gandhi’s eyes were sparkling with mischief 
when he talked to her later about Mussolini’s eyes. “They’re 
like a cat’s eyes,” he said, “always moving. . “How,” 
asked Miss Lester; “like this (rolling her eyes up and down) 
or like this (rolling them from left to right, enough to hurt 
herself) ?” “Like this, like this,” said Gandhi with a laugh 
(indicating the latter kind, the perpetual agitation of 
worried eyes on the lookout). He went on: “In general he 
does not look a man of humanity. But I must say that he 
was charming with me. And when I told him that the Pope 
couldn’t receive me, I saw a little glint of mischievous satis- 

For lack of the Pope, Gandhi fell back on his shell; he 
got himself into the Vatican and acted the tourist — which is 
not like him (at least, not what I thought I knew of him. 

. . . I am sorry not to have seen him in Rome; he must 
have been a bit like a schoolboy on holiday). He did the 
rounds of the art galleries, and he says himself that he was 
so moved in front of a picture of the Crucifixion (?) that 
tears came into his eyes. He also visited two of Mme. 
Montessori’s schools (the Italian papers said the “Balillas”) 
and he made the mistake of visiting Stars ce, the new secre- 
tary of the Fascist party. As I thought, his visit to Rome was 
exploited by the Fascists. The press report dwelt on his visit 
to Mussolini and the Fascist institutions; a photo in U Illus- 
tration, which must have been faked, shows him watching 
a march-past of Fascist youths; he looks as if he is ins- 
pecting them, while he may have been a mere onlooker. The 
Italian press, generally sympathetic, carefully eliminated the 
word “non-violence” from his statements and from any allu- 
sions to his name; on the contrary they attributed to him 
all sorts of violent and threatening remarks about England 
which he had to deny by cable on arrival at Port Said. The 


Romain RoIIand and Gandhi : Correspondence 

anti-Fascists were very hurt by it all. I have had several 
letters from worthy people asking me to explain it, and 
La Liberia , mouthpiece of the Italian emigres in Paris, fea- 
tured in its ’weekly issue a bitter remark on the Gandhi- 
Mussolini meeting, adding the one word “ Ingenuitd ?” 

But it is not ingenuousness. I have seen enough of 
Gandhi now to be sure that he has not been taken in; he 
misses no political sharp practices. But he counters them 
with his calm ironic indifference which goes its own way 
whatever happens. I was never the least worried for him 
when I saw him heading for Rome ; nobody can ensnare him, 
and nobody will. . . . But it was not only he himself that 
mattered. What mattered was those suffering Italians whose 
torturer he went to see. I told him so very clearly, and I 
blame myself for not having pressed the point further. When 
he asked me to decide, after we had both stated our points 
of view, I should have said to him: “Very well, don’t go. 
On no account should you give your hand to the murderer 
of Matteotti and Amendola.” I have too much respect for 
the freedom of those I respect. After putting all the facts 
before him, I let him decide himself; I should have decided 
for him. I did not take enough account of the “demon of 

Anyway, the bad impression will be transitory, and 
Gandhi will efface it in his usual way, by action. 

A telegram from General Moris tells me (Monday 14 
December) that Gandhi has left Rome for Brindisi, and is 
taking the Privats with him to India. 

A few more forgotten notes from the Conversations with 
Gandhi. On the last morning we talked about many varied 
subjects, and Gandhi spoke with more verve and openness 
than in the other conversations. 

We discussed, among other things, the question of the 
“Untouchables”. Gandhi thinks this was originally a corrupt 
application of Ahimsa. Men and women guilty of serious 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


crimes, instead of facing the death penalty, were excluded 
from the community. But by a process of social degenera- 
tion this penalty has become even more barbarous than 
death. (I relate this to the cruel hypocrisy of perpetual im- 
prisonment in the West, more implacable than death, which 
shuts up the condemned criminal in isolation and finally 
drives him mad.) 

There are worse things even than the “Untouchables”, 
contact with whom is polluting; there are also what one 
may term the “Unseeables”, on whom it is forbidden 
even to look. There are not very many of them; 200 or 300 
in the whole of India. Naturally Gandhi and his followers 
have done much to fight against this infamy, and they 
have partially succeeded, but they sometimes have to fight 
against the oppressed as well as the oppressors, for they cling 
desperately to their abject state. Gandhi tells of the diffi- 
culties he has faced in speaking with some of these un- 
touchables, who run away and hide, or then, when found, 
grovel with their faces in the dust and with hay in their 
mouth. On the other hand Gandhi does not agree with 
the emancipated untouchables who demand a separate 
organization in the future constitution of India. He looks 
upon this so-called privilege as the stubborn prolongation of 
a stigma; he demands absolute equality for all Indians with- 
out distinction of caste and non-caste. 

I also ask Gandhi about the Ramakrishna Mission. 
Gandhi did not know Ramakrishna but he honours him; 
when he first returned from Africa to India he tried to see 
Vivekananda and went to his Ashram, but Vivekananda 
was not there, and they never met. He says that the Rama- 
krishna Mission is very estimable and that he has always 
found it an ally in his efforts, but it has confined itself too 
narrowly to a few limited types of social work, particularly 
hospital work (help for the sick, etc.), in which it has done 
a lot of good all over India. Bilt it is far from having kept 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Ramakrishna’s broadness of heart, and it keeps itself too 
timidly separate from social and political action. 

I also find in a small Swiss religious journal, Le Semeur 
Vaudois (19 December) a few notes which I lacked on his 
conversations at the International University Sanatorium 
at Leysin. He was asked what he thought of sickness. 
Gandhi replies: 

People make a fetish out of sickness. In this life so 
full of dangers, we must have the courage to brave the 
dangers of sickness, and they must be countered with the 
minimum of treatment. Should lots of hospitals be built? 
No. All the riches of all the millionaires would not suffice 
to build enough hospitals to care for all those on earth 
who are sick of body. Now those who can have themselves 
cared for in hospitals ought to think of all the others who 
cannot, and should not accept for themselves cures of which 
millions of human beings are deprived. To fight against 
sickness through the world, it is better to promote certain 
very simple principles for living a healthy and frugal life, 
principles of elementary hygiene accessible to all. In any 
case there will always be sickness, and man may well allow 
himself to suffer something in his body; what he must not 
allow is sickness in his mind. Gandhi added that the spirit 
has power to chase away physical sickness. One must not 
attach too much importance to sickness by thinking and 
worrying about it; a healthy mind leads to a healthy body. 
Gandhi has learned this by experience for more than thirty 

He also spoke of manual labour, and said that the man 
who eats food which he has not earned by the work of his 
hands is stealing his food. Finally, La Revolution ProlStarienne 
in Paris (the syndicalist revolutionary review of Monatte, 
Louzon and others) gives an impartial publication in its 
December number of a review by D. Guerin of the Magic 
City meeting in Paris and Gandhi’s replies to twenty-three 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


questions. He says that "at no time during this long inter- 
rogation was Gandhi at a loss. He seems to have been aware 
in advance, for all eternity, of the questions asked him. Al- 
ways unmoved, calm and methodical, with the authority 
of a leader and also the prudence and subtlety of a crafty 
peasant, he has an answer for everything.” 

These revolutionaries, more intelligent than the regi- 
mented Communists of V Humanity, instead of passing judg- 
ment on the value of Gandhi’s tactics, hold back and wait 
for the supreme test of action. 

Letters sent by Mira on the journey — from Brindisi, 
then at sea from the liner Pilsana — show that Gandhi is 
thinking about what I said to him about Russia. My friends 
in Rome — General Moris, Sofia Bertolini, Tolstoy’s grand- 
daughter, recently married to a man called Albertini (son 
of the former director of the Corriere della Sera), are also think- 
ing about the problem. They asked him what I think about 
it, and each member of the Indian group gave a different 
interpretation. So Gandhi asked Mira to get me to write 
to her exactly what my opinion is. 

200. Madeleine Slade to Romain Holland 

On the train just 
before reaching Brindisi 
14 December 1931 

Beloved Friend and Brother, 

Words seem so weak when the heart is so full! 

Those five days at Villeneuve we carry like a priceless 
jewel in our hearts. 

All has gone well here in Italy, There was no attempt 
made to “run” Bapu. We saw Mussolini (Bapu, Mahadev 
and I with the General). He was very gracious, and asked 
many questions about India. 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

To watch the faces of the two leaders, as they talked, 
was a unique study in contrasts. 

. . . We owe you deepest thanks for introducing us to 
the Moris family. We have all fallen in love with one 

Last night Madame Bertolini came up to the house, 
had a talk, and also attended the prayer. 

. . . The daughter of Tolstoy also came, and had a 
good talk with Bapu. They talked much of you, and Bapu 
reproached her for not keeping up her correspondence 
with you, and has told her she has got to write to you and 
explain the things about which she is uneasy. She has 
promised to do so. 

The King’s young daughter of 18 also came up and 
attended the prayer. 

Bapu is quite in love with the Italian people. And they 
seem to be equally in love with him. 


201. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland 

S.S. Pilsana 
In the Mediterranean Sea 
16 December 1931 

Beloved Friend, 

Since we left you there has been one question coming 
up time after time, namely, your exact attitude towards the 
Russian regime. While we were in Rome Madame Moris, 
Madame Bertolini and Tolstoy’s daughter were all full of 
questions on the subject. We ourselves seemed to have some 
slight variety of opinion as to your real feelings, so Bapu 
thought it would be best if you will make your position 
clear to them yourself. And he told me to write and tell 
you this. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


I wish we could have gone to Russia. Since a long 
while Bapu has been anxious to go there. But this time 
there is nothing for it but to hurry home. . . . 


202. Gandhi to Romain Holland 

S.S. Pilsana 
20 December 1931 

Dear Friend and Brother, 

I had your cable . 1 I shall duly get the letter referred 
to by you. 

You will please write to Tolstoy’s daughter 2 and satisfy 
her as to Bolshevism. General Moris and Madame Moris 
were extraordinarily kind to us all. We felt as members of 
a family immediately we reached their house. 

Mussolini is an enigma to me. Many of the reforms he 
has made attract me. He seems to have done a great deal 
for the peasantry. Of course the iron glove is there. But 
allowing that force is the basis of Western society, Musso- 
lini’s reforms deserve an impartial study. His care of the poor 
people, his opposition to overurbanisation, his attempt to 
bring about co-ordination between capital and labour seem 
to me to demand very careful attention. I would like you 
to enlighten me on these matters. My own fundamental 
doubt of course abides in that these reforms are forced. But 
that is true even of democratic institutions. What strikes 
me is that behind Mussolini’s ruthlessness is the motive of 
serving his people. Even behind his bombastic speeches 

1 This telegram has not been found. 

2 The reference is to Soukhotin Tolstoy, whom Gandhi met in 
Rome on December 13, 1931. 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

there is a ring of sincerity and burning love for his people. 
It also seems to me that the bulk of the Italians like Musso- 
lini’s iron rule. I do not want you to trouble to answer 
this at once. Do please take your own time. Needless to 
say I do not propose to write publicly just now about these 
matters. I have simply put these things before you as one 
knowing infinitely more than I do of them. 

And now about your projected visit to India. I feel 
that if you came during the cold season i.e. between Janu- 
ary and March, you could easily bear the climate and pro- 
bably even benefit by it. Of course you could fly but I 
would advise the ocean route. If you will seriously consider 
the proposal, a tentative programme can be submitted to you. 

With deep love. 


M. K. Gandhi 

203. Gandhi to Madeleine Holland 

S'. S'. Pilsana 
20 December 1931 

Dear Sister, 

What shall I say of you and your good brother’s affec- 
tion for me? The visit to Villeneuve was truly a pilgri- 
mage for me. I wish I could have stayed longer than I 
did. However, the memory of the few days’ communion 
with you will be among my richest treasures. 

Now one word about your brother’s health. You must 
shed the fear of fresh air, no matter of what season it is. If 
damp air is feared, a drier region has to be chosen. The 
artificial drying does no good at all unless one uses most 
expensive machinery for continuous drying of continuously 
admitted fresh air. They do this in the British House of 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Commons, I am told. But I feel sure that if you keep the 
windows continually open in the unused part of the room, 
it can do no harm. As it is, you are not getting the bene- 
fit of the magnificent air of Villeneuve. I have now done. 
You will pardon this writing prompted by love. 

You will now write freely and fully whatever you feel. 

Yours sincerely, 
M. K. Gandhi 

204. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

December 1931 .- On the morning of departure I gave 
Gandhi a gift; he had jokingly complained: “You’ve 
given things to all the others; I’m the only one not to get 
anything.” “But what can I give you?” I said. “There’s 
nothing you want. If the gift is of any value you leave it or 
sell it for your work.” (For instance he left me a gold 
medal struck in his name by Otlet, director of the Brussels 
Palais Mondial.) I made him a gift of a pretty painted 
lacquer box from Palekh (U.S.S.R.), portraying a shepherd 
playing the flute in a meadow. He turned it over and 
over, saying, “But what will I be able to do with it?” “You 
can put your Pastilles in it,” someone suggested, “for when 
you have a cold.” “So I shall have to have colds for the 
rest of my life?” he said. 

He arrives in Bombay on 28 December. 

205. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

January 1932 - My first letter 1 of the year (1 January 1932) 
is to Mira; I quote only the parts relating to the Russian 
question (raised in Rome in discussions between Gandhi, 

1 The full text of this letter has not been found. 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

his followers and my Roman friends) : once again I have 
to clarify my position: 

“ • • • My position is clear: I support Soviet Russia 
against everything threatening her in the West — includ- 
ing my own country. If there should be a conflict, I would 
not hesitate; and this conflict is always latent. The system 
of capitalist exploitation run by the ruling bourgeoisie in 
Europe (a system which extends from Europe over the 
whole world) and the powerful expansion necessary to the 
Soviet state based on Labour cannot live long together, and 
the underlying murderous immorality of the first system 
must disappear. This is a matter of life or death for the 
whole of human society. Though there may be room for 
discussion on the various methods used by Labour and its 
elected powers which are called upon to succeed the capita- 
list system of today, there can be no doubt in a healthy and 
disinterested mind about the urgent need for the capitalist 
system of today to be destroyed. Now the U.S.S.R. represents 
the only force, the only new social faith in Europe (or 
America) which is profoundly alive and fertile. It animates 
and unites nearly 150 million men of different races, lan- 
guages and religions. It has kindled in the hearts of a youth 
movement with which I am in contact, a fire of collective 
action, of passionate hope for the future of humanity and 
sacrifice for the happiness and well-being of this humanity 
to come. Even if I do not share this faith, I bow to it, I 
love it and I shall defend it, as I would any powerful 
light, against all those who would seek to put it out. 

As to questions of economics (such as mechanization 
and industrialization) or tactics (such as the problem of 
non-violence or violence in the defence of the community), 
they need a separate discussion, and can’t be dealt with in 
the short space of a letter, or even one or two conversa- 
tions. As regards mechanization and industrialization, I 
consider they are as much linked up with the particular condi- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


tions of Russia as the domestic industry of the spinning wheel 
is linked up with those of India. If you read a recent book 
by Boris Pilniak, about “the Seventh Republic of Tadjikistan ”, 
you will see that in the task of conquering deserts (untouch- 
ed for 2,000 or 3,000 years) and transforming them into 
fertile lands in the space of 5 or 6 years, human arms would 
always have been powerless if they hadn’t used the heaviest 
possible machinery. In this case the machine has killed 
death and caused life to spring forth. In itself it is neither 
moral nor immoral; it is a force, and everything depends 
on the use made of it. 

But I am sorry to speak of such questions at a time 
when Bapu (Gandhi) is entirely taken up with the tragic 
problem of Indian action. . . 

206. Romain Roll and to Gandhi 


2 January 1932 

My very dear Friend, 

Your affectionate letter from the ship reached me a 
few hours after I posted my letter to Mira. My sister and 
I thank you for your good wishes. 

The circumstances in which you find yourself today are 
too serious and absorbing for me to discuss anything else 
with you, so I shall leave until later the explanations you 
want on Italian Fascism. Today I merely want to put you 
on your guard against the much too hasty and (if I may 
say so) mainly erroneous impressions you give in your letter. 

You spent three or four days in Italy at the most — two 
of them in a first-class carriage between Domodossola and 
Brindisi. How can you possibly have formed even the most 
approximate idea of the feelings of the “mass” of the popu- 
lation (as you put it) about the regime imposed on them? 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

How much did you see of them? Only those who support 
the regime, and that indifferent crowd in the large cities, 
which even in Imperial Rome acclaimed men like Nero and 
Caligula provided they gave them “ panem et cir censes” (bread 
and circuses) ! Did you see those who could not speak, those 
who have to fret hidden in their own houses, those in en- 
forced domicilio coatto, those who have been deported to the 
volcanic islands to the south of the peninsula and exposed 
to the degrading brutalities of the regime’s myrmidons, 
those who have been murdered by order of the podestas — if 
not by order of the Duce himself? In Rome itself, did you 
visit the widow of the noble Matteotti, who since his mur- 
der (five or six years ago) has been watched in her house by 
the police and who fears for the life of her grandchildren? 
Have you forgotten what I told you about that great reli- 
gious conscience, my friend Amendola, a man of peace and 
reflection, who was three times beaten up and trampled on 
by Mussolini’s orders, despite the spurious safe-conduct 
given to him by Mussolini, and who died of his wounds 
three months later? Do you not remember the moral suf- 
ferings I outlined to you (too rapidly) confided to me by so 
many men and women outside political parties who have 
been forced to lie? 

There’s one thing you say, of serious import in your 
mouth for its very carelessness, which I have, alas, heard 
frequently on the lips of other Indians! You say, to excuse 
the crimes of Fascism, that “force (meaning violence) is the 
basis of Western society ”. I really must protest at this parallel 
between the Mussolini regime and the great European de- 
mocracies like France, England, Scandinavia or Switzer- 
land. I have no affection for the “democracies”, and I have 
often denounced their hypocrisy. But the point is that I 
have been able to denounce it, and I still can. I ruined my 
popularity by opposing the follies perpetrated by my people 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


during the war, but I have not been murdered by order of 
the state, like Matteotti and Amendola. Jaur<s was mur- 
dered, but by a madman or a degenerate. The force of 
public opinion and certain traditions of civil liberties con- 
quered over the centuries guarantee broad rights of free 
thought and expression in our Western countries — of which 
nothing is left in Fascist Italy. These rights are threatened 
today by business capitalism and imperialism, which buys 
up the press, and consciences wherever possible; one more 
reason for us to defend them energetically against the exam- 
ple of Fascism, which capitalism is trying to introduce into 
other states, by ruse or by force! Do you not understand 
that Europe is threatened by a plague, whose centre is Rome ? 

I am wonderstruck when you speak of the good Duce, 
protector of the people against the exploitation of the 
rich! Do you know that the Fascist march on Rome which 
established Mussolini in power was financed by large bank- 
ing interests which wanted to crush the danger of popular 
power? Do you know that the first thing done by the Fas- 
cists when in power was to destroy, burn, pillage and ruin 
the labour exchanges, popular libraries and socialist com- 
munes? Nowhere on the continent had socialism achieved 
such a high degree of intelligent and well-informed strength 
than in certain provinces in the north of Italy — Mussolini 
himself was a product of it. The Socialist Party was the 
only one during the 1914-18 war which resolutely held out 
against the war, and after the peace was signed it was called 
to the government of Italy. Mussolini, who left its ranks, 
ruined it, harried it with his personal hatred, to avenge his 
wounded and embittered pride. This man, whom you say 
is so attached to the “peasantry”, has exposed whole stret- 
ches of country to the brutality of Fascist expeditions. Cer- 
tain villages and prosperous communities which resisted 
have been deported wholesale to the other end of Italy. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

You say he burns with ardent patriotism? He and his 
band have pillaged the State treasury. His brother, who 
was a poor man like himself, died a millionaire. One of his 
henchmen, who moved turn by turn from the Ministry of 
Public Works to the Ministry of Aviation, has gorged him- 
self with millions,. 1 

207. Extract from Romain Rolland 5 s Diary 

2 January 1932.— I had begun a reply 2 to Gandhi on 
Italy and Fascism — then the news of his arrest arrived. I 
set my unfinished letter aside. 

208. Extract from Romain Rolland 5 s Diary 

4 January 1932 .— Gandhi arrested in Bombay, and taken 
to prison in Poona. 

209. Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland 

Telegram ( postmarked 4 January 1932 Bombay) 

Rolland Villeneuve Vaud 

Government turned down all peace efforts arrested 
Bapu early today and taken him Poona stop his spirits 
high health good stop Vallabhbhai also arrested stop all 
well love. 


1 This letter is unfinished, and R. R. did not despatch it. 

2 The preceding item 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


210. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

5 January 1932.— 1 invite the Indian Jh'czis (a review 
published in London by pro-Indian Europeans with which 
I collaborate along with Bertrand Russell, Fenner Brockway, 
Laurence Housman and Harold Laski) to take the init- 
iative in organizing an international protest against the 
arrest of Gandhi and the particularly illegal way in which 
the Viceroy has violated the agreements embodied in the 
Delhi Pact, and outlawed the Indian National Congress. 

In the following days, nearly all the leaders of the 
Congress and the Gandhist movement are arrested. India 
is virtually placed in a state of siege. This is the last 
lurch of old imperialist England, spurred on by the recent 
victory of the Conservative party and the betrayal of Ram- 
say MacDonald and Snowden. 

211. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

25 January 19 32. -Despite the state of siege now esta- 
blished in India, we succeed (until today, 25 January) in 
receiving precise and direct reports from our Indian friends 
(Mahadev Desai, and his replacements after his ariest). 
I use them for a “Letter from India” which I send to 
Europe under the title “England Declares War on India”. 
(25 January) 

This is what I write to an Englishman (Celar Addison) 
who is begging me to mobilize European opinion on India’s 
behalf (where are the voices of Wells and Bernard Shaw T ? 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Oh! What an unbridgeable gap was left by the death of 
E. D. Morel!) : 

“In the eyes of those millions of men who in this 
hour consider the maintenance of present-day society intoler- 
able and have determined to change it — “social change 
or death!” — the imposing experiment of Satyagraha in 
India is the only chance offered to the world of achieving 
this transformation of humanity without appealing to vio- 
lence. If it fails, if it is ruined by the violence of the Bri- 
tish Empire and the inability of India to stand up to it, 
human history will be left with no other issue than violence, 
and the British Empire itself will have decided it; either 
Gandhi or Lenin! In some way or other, social justice 
must be achieved! This is what makes the spectacle of 
India even more tragic for us, and this is why all those who 
have social harmony and the Gospel spirit of peace at heart 
should help India with all their might. For if the India 
of Satyagraha were to succumb in the battle, Christ himself 
would be struck with the supreme lance-blow on the cross, 
and this time he would not be resurrected. Does it have 
to be a non-Christian (though Christian by birth, I am no 
longer one in spirit) who reminds the Christians of this?” 
This appears in the Indian News, run by the Friends of India 
in London (early in February). 

212. Extract from Romain Roll and 5 s Diary 

January 1932.- A few notes on Gandhi’s diet at the 
Villa Lionnette: 

1. About 6 or 7 in the morning: 

A large glass of boiled goat’s milk (sometimes reboiled) 
and, a little earlier, the juice of four oranges. 

2. At 10 o’clock in the morning: 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Hot water with lemon and honey or powdered 

3. About midday — 1 p.m.: 

1 large bunch of grapes (sometimes more) 

1 large glass of boiled goat’s milk 
Dates (30 or 40) 

4. About 6-7 p.m.: 

Several little dishes of grated raw vegetables: carrots, 
sticks of celery (we give him celery hearts) — Gandhi attaches 
great importance to this vegetable — turnips in quantity), 
more raw tomatoes with salt, and two large grated apples. 

Mira always carries boxes of ground almonds and pots 
of honey about with her. (In addition, she is always prepar- 
ing ground hazelnuts and walnuts of which Gandhi is fond.) 

Note the absence of flour — rice, bread, wheat, etc. ! This 
is because of Gandhi’s constitution; he is always inclined to 

213. Extract from Romain Holland’ s Diary 

4 February 7P52.-Helbig, from Rome, drops in from the 
clouds (literally; he came by air). He says he came from 
Rome specially to see me. (And indeed he sees no one 
else and goes back to Milan next day.) I cannot under- 
stand why he came. In our first minutes together, he 
tells me in mysterious terms that the present situation in 
Italy wall soon be coming to a head at last .... We pass to 
a less dangerous subject: Gandhi’s stay in Rome. 

(H. is a close friend of General Moris, in whose com- 
pany I met him in Lugano last summer. I knew his family 
in my student years at the Palazzo Farnese; his father was 
a German archaeologist and his mother a Russian pianist. 
He himself is a naturalized Italian, and he held the rank 
of colonel in the Italian Air Force — thus a comrade or a 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi $ Correspondence 

subordinate of Moris. He resigned some years ago when 
he denounced a huge network of shady financial dealings. 
He seems to be persona grata with the King, but outside the 
circle of the Duce, with whom he has only once had 

In any case, this is the story he told us of Gandhi’s 


In the first place, General Moris, to whom I sent a 
rather indiscreet telegram suggesting that Gandhi might 
be his guest in Rome, seems to have been taken seriously 
aback w r hen he opened my telegram (which, it seems, was 
brought to him by a police spy). He did not even know 
w r hether Gandhi would be a persona non grata in Italy (not 
being aware that official advances had been made to the 
Mahatma so that he could be annexed, and that it was 
precisely for that reason that I was approaching him). In 
short I plunged the good man into fits of timorous perple- 
xity of which I had no inkling. He went to ask H. what 
to do; H- told him to ask the advice of the head of his 
office. Moris did so, and his chief postponed his reply un- 
til the next day to give him a chance to confer with “the 
Master”. After a Council of State next morning, “the 
Master” agrees. Hence the thirty-hour delay in his reply. 

Gandhi arrives in Milan at night, in his third-class 
compartment. The Station Master comes to greet him and 
tells him he is the guest of the Italian Government for 
the whole of his stay. A first-class carriage is placed at his 
disposal — -or a third, whichever he prefers; Gandhi chooses 
the first, “as he doesn’t have to pay”. This is how H. 
explains the matter, finding it quite natural. (In fact Gandhi 
had no choice, but he told us that he would make no ob- 
jection as it did not concern him; the Italian Government 
could do as it liked, and it was not an important matter.) 
Not only was he given a magnificent carriage (not at all the 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


usual first-class type) ; the whole train was a special one, which 
arrived in Rome twenty minutes before the ordinary express. 
Moris and H., going by the usual timetable, were late for 
the arrival, which, no doubt, the Fascist foxes were count- 
ing on to whisk Gandhi away from him. Gandhi was con- 
fronted at the door of his compartment by two ladies who 
told him they had come to take him by car to the palace 
of a certain person who would like him to accept his hos- 
pitality. This certain person was a big-business shark, a 
Fascist, and a friend and instrument of Scarpa, the Italian 
Consul in India, who w r as the man pulling the strings 
behind the whole affair. Anyone else but Gandhi would 
hive given in, in Moris’ prolonged absence, but the wily 
old man, put on his guard by me, refused to budge; he sat 
down squarely in the corner of his compartment and said 
he was to stay in Rome with Romain Rolland's friend 
General Moris and he would not get out of the carriage 
until Moris arrived. This caused no mean embarrassment 
to the railway authorities, who did not dare move the train 
to another platform and the following trains were delayed. 

Finally Moris appears, with H., and takes Gandhi in 
his car, with Mira and the English policeman. H. follows in 
another car with the other Indians. A swarm of police 
separates his car from that of Moris; he is unable to catch 
up before the foot of the Monte Mario, and he sees five or 
six other cars climbing the hill in a queue behind Moris’ 
car. H. decides to protect his friend’s villa from the rush 
of journalists and sightseers, and he manages to make up 
lost ground and position himself immediately behind Moris, 
in front of the others. Moris’ villa is off the main 
road, being reached by a narrow side-road with room for 
only one car to pass. Moris’ car turns into it, then H’s., and 
as soon as he is in it, he stops and blocks off the bottleneck. 
There are shouts behind, but H. sits tight. A squad of police 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

rushes howling towards him, and he decides to move, but 
he has given Moris time to get ahead. They have hardly 
arrived when he sees the police enter the house; one ins- 
talls himself by the telephone and another at the entrance 
to the drawing room, so not a word will be lost for the 
whole of Gandhi’s stay. At one point in the garden, Gandhi 
takes H. aside and says to him in forceful tones which H. 
hears only on this one occasion: “Now you must tell me 
everything .” H. is about to speak, and he sees Moris’ wife 
making desperate signals to him behind Gandhi. He finds 
it impossible to speak; he shows Gandhi the magnificent 
panorama of the landscape round the villa and says: “You 
see this beautiful sky, this admirable expanse of nature. This 
still belongs to us. This still is ours. ... It would be very 
sad if we had to be deprived of that too. . . .” The General 
is old, with a weak heart and he waits hand and foot on his 
wife whose health is also suspect; he trembles at the pros- 
pect of compromising her or striking her a mortal blow 
by bringing down the “Master’s” wrath on his head. So all 
lips are sealed; for the whole of his stay with his hosts Gandhi 
was told nothing and heard nothing. 

H. goes over the timetable of his thirty-six hours in 
Rome. Gandhi's first wish is to visit the Vatican (and, I 
imagine, its master, who made no attempt to see him). An 
afternoon rendezvous is arranged with the director of the 
Vatican Museums. At the same time Scarpa announces that 
he will take Gandhi to a Montessori school, then to Contessa 
C., then, if I make no mistake, to the Duce. There is no 
means of arguing, and Gandhi, no doubt curious, acquiesces. 
H. takes him first to the Sistine Chapel, and shows him 
the ceiling, the Michelangelo Frescos, the Botticellis, etc. 
Gandhi smiles and shakes his head; it makes no effect on 
him; he seems interested only when he is told that this is 
the room in which for centuries the Popes have been elected. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


On the point of leaving, he sees on the altar a fourteenth- 
or fifteenth-century crucifix, very stiff and harsh; this is 
the one thing which moves him. In the museum of sculp- 
ture he stops in front of the Socrates, which he recognizes, 
but he then points out a Silenus and says “Socrates" again 
(and he’s not far wrong!). He also takes an interest in 
the statue of the Nile with its sources. (And probably also 
the Laocoon; H. doesn’t mention it, but Desai refers- to it 
in comic style in his account of the visit in Young India ; the 
worthy Indians were so confused by what they were told 
that Desai describes the group as the w ork of a Greek sculptor 
and his two sons!) 

Then H. takes him to see the sunset over Rome from 
the Janiculum. He is not present at what follows, but he 
knows that the top dogs of the Fascist press were all assembled 
at Contessa C’s., and that the director of the Giornale d’ Italia , 
who knows not a word of English and could not have under- 
stood whatever Gandhi might have said to him, was still 
able to publish next day an impudent interview with Gandhi 
attributing to him the purest Fascist sentiments (even the 
legitimacy of violence). This article must have aroused 
considerable interest, which was soon used against Gandhi. 
He heard nothing of it until he was on the boat, or until 
his arrival in Egypt, from which he sent a cable disavowing 
it. But the journalist maintained the whole of his inter- 

If I make no mistake (and I may have got the time 
wrong), Gandhi then went to Mussolini, accompanied by 
Mira, Moris and Desai. Mussolini crossed the room to meet 
him, and offered seats to him and Mira, but left the old 
General and Desai standing without seeming even to notice 
them. At one point, when Gandhi (I think) pointed to 
General Moris, Mussolini made a sharp gesture of indiffe- 
cence: “I know, I know ” According to H.’s account. 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Mussolini very prudently kept on his guard, asking all the 
questions and avoiding stating an opinion. 

Early next day Scarpa took charge of Gandhi to take 
him to the “Ballilas”, where bambini of twelve and thirteen 
came up to him with little guns which they let off in his 
honour! (Gandhi, who adores children, may have seen 
it as just a joke.) Then at a meeting of party leaders, lor- 
ded over by the Fascist chief Starace, they seem to have dis- 
cussed events in India; these gentlemen graciously agreed 
with a smile that non-violence works for the Indians; but 
of course in Europe it’s another matter. 

I could not possibly try to reconstruct the exact time- 
table of the day without risk of error; I only know that Gandhi 
must have been shown some model work of social assistance 
(hospitals for the poor or the aged) and technical edu- 
cation — a singular piece of bluff, as Gandhi may have be- 
lieved that what he saw was just one example among thous- 
ands, whereas according to H. it would be a “bare minimum”. 

The inevitable Scarpa again dragged his Indian ele- 
phant to the above-mentioned Contessa G; this time she 
had invited what H. refers to as the cream of feminine 
stupidity and snobbery. Again, though, the visit was shor- 
tened by the announcement that young Princess Maria, 
the King’s daughter, wanted to visit Gandhi at Moris’ villa. 
This nineteen-year-old girl, whose naivete suggests a mental 
age of fifteen, had the touching idea of bringing Gandhi 
a souvenir of his own land, to which end, and going by the 
name alone, she chose “Indian figs”, which are the Italian 
name for some spiny cactus fruits which have nothing to do 
with India. So she furnished herself with a little hamper 
tied up with ribbon full of these fruits, more suitable for the 
rough tongue of a camel. H. says it was a real sight to see 
Gandhi unpacking them and turning them over with his 
mischievous calm. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


H.’s last and strongest memory of Gandhi in Rome 
was on the last evening at the station, as he was leaving. 
Gandhi had settled himself at the window of his compart- 
ment about ten minutes before the train started moving. 
A crowd of several hundred people had collected round the 
carriage, and H., in the middle of them, heard them ex- 
changing remarks. First they all commented openly, with 
the lack of restraint typical of a Latin crowd, on Gandhi’s 
ugliness; the word “brut to’’ was running from mouth to 
mouth. Then they came closer and held out their hands 
to him, which Gandhi grasped with his broad radiant smile; 
and the radiance of his smile ran from one man to the next, 
no one could resist and finally everyone was won over. 
Ten minutes were enough, without a single word establish- 
ing any link between them. H. says ii gave him a practi- 
cal demonstration of Gandhi’s striking charm over 

214. Gandhi to Ashram Women 

February 13, 1932 

Dear Sisters, 

, . .You have heard the name of M. Rolland. He is a 
great European writer and a saintly man. I went to see him. 
He has a sister who also may now be regarded aged, like him. 
She has remained unmarried with the sole purpose of help- 
ing her brother. The language of the two, the brother and 
the sister, is French. Romain Rolland does not know Eng- 
lish, but the sister does. One may say that the sister has 
merged her identity in her brother’s. She looks after Rolland’s 
needs in every respect. She works as his secretary and also 
as interpreter when Englishmen come to see him. Rolland 
has delicate health and the sister guards it too. Though 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

such examples of renunciation are rare in this world, we 
do come across them in the West. . . . 

Blessings from* 

215* Madeleine Slade to Romain Rolland 

In the Poona train 
Wednesday , 17 February 1932 

Beloved Friend and Brother, 

It seems that the honour is to be mine at last! A notice 
has been served on me and I expect my arrest tomorrow 

In my cell I shall so often be thinking of you. 

I am writing to you in the train on my way back 
from Poona where I have just seen Bapu. He is well and 
peaceful and sends his love to all. I reach Bombay tonight 
by 8-30 and any time after midnight the police may 
come to fetch me. I hope they may bring me back to 
Yeravda that I may be near my Bapu with only a wall or 
two and a road in between. 

The beloved country is struggling in the grips of a 
terrible repression. But the spirit of determination is strong 
and deep. God will keep with us. 

The authorities must be stopping all letters for I have 
heard nothing from Villeneuve all this while. But I pray 
that you are both well. The crash of modern civilization 
seems rapidly approaching, — it seems as if it is to be the 
scourge only out of which new hope can come. Deepest 
love to you both. 

Yours ever* 

Letters, IKaury Extracts 

216. Extract from Remain Rollaxid 5 s I>iaxy 

3 March iPJJ?.-Edmond Privat and his wife, back from 
India, visit us. 1 

217. Gandhi to Romain Holland 

16 September 1932 

Dear Friend and Brother, 

On the eve of taking the momentous step in my life, 
I would like to tell you how I prize those days I had with 
you and your great good and devoted sister. Mahadev 
Desai is with me. We often think of you. 

I wonder how you have felt over the contemplated step. 
I can only say that it was decided upon in obedience to the 
imperative voice v of conscience. 

With love to you both. 

Yours sincerely, 
M. K. Gandhi 

Will you please send the enclosed to the Privats? 

1 See the account of their journey in Inde, pp. 380-390 (Editions; 
Albin Michel). 


Romain Holland, and Gandhi : Correspondence 

218. Extract from Gandhi’s Diary 

Friday, September 16, / 952. -Spun 205 rounds. Letters — 
Nargis, Lily, Saraladevi, Anasuyabehn, Raihana, Mira, 
Radha, Romain Rolland, Muriel, Verrier, Polak, Privat, 
Ansari, Agatha Harrison. 

219. C. F. Andrews to Romain Rolland 

Telegram postmarked Montreux 26 September 1932 
Thank God Mahatma’s life is spared. 


220. Romain Rolland to Gandhi 

Telegram 27 September 1932 
Happy for your great spiritual victory. 

Romain Rolland 

221. Gandhi to Mirabehn 

September 29, 1932 

Chi. Mira, 

This is the third letter after the breaking of the fast 
and written just after the first fruit meal consisting of oran- 
ges and grape juice. And that has been my principal food. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Yesterday I took thin soup made of twai*. Today I pro- 
pose to take milk. 

Your letters have come in regularly. I cannot under- 
stand why mine have not been received by you, I am 

Strength is rapidly coming. There was yesterday al- 
ready a gain of lb., i.e., 95 lb. 

I did write to Romain Rolland. There was a cable 
from him on the break of the fast. 

I read your message to Gurudev yesterday and I 
touched his feet for you, as Mahadev, poet-like, had forgotten 
to do so. 

Ba, of course, forgot all her misery as soon as she came 
here. She seems to have borne it all very bravely indeed. 

I hope you are all quite composed now. The fast was 
really nothing compared to the miseries that the outcastes 
have undergone for ages. 

Love to you and Kisen. 


222. Gandhi to Romain Rolland and Madeleine Rolland 

Postmarked Teravda 30 September 1932 

My dear Friends, 

I had your loving message. You were ever present 
to me during the travail. God’s mercy was bountiful and 
traceable during the whole of the great drama. 

My love, 

As I was finishing this, I had Mira’s letter. Hus has 
been an agony without felt joy. But she has chosen the 
spiked bed and she is bravely lying on it. 

* Ridge gourd 


Roznain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

223. Extract from Roxnain Holland’s Diary 

September 2P52.-Haunted by thoughts of Gandhi, who 
may die — (reports from India suggest that he is already 
in danger after a few days of fasting, in which he did not 
want to interrupt his political activity) — and by the foolish 
indifference of the European “idealists”, who cannot 
grasp the “real” significance for the future of the world 
and for their ideas which the disappearance and defeat of 
this last hero of non-violence would have. Not one of 
them would lift a finger to help Iris cause in Europe. 
The childish Quakers have found nothing more effective 
than a ridiculous 24-hour fast! The only one really doing 
anything in London is C. F. Andrews, who is also the 
only one listened to by the English governing class. Mrs. 
Cousins, an English Theosophist who has lived twenty 
years or so in India, is organizing an International Day 
on India’s behalf in Geneva on 6 October (which is very 
late in the day). No renowned French personality is willing 
to take part in it; some are sick, others selfishly conclude 
that it is not worth the trouble to put themselves out. Since 
Albert Schweitzer, on whom they had counted, also refused 
(though he at least has too much to do and, like myself, is 
in poor health), I am asked to press the matter with him; 
so I write (23 September). 

“ ... It is not the man Gandhi that is at stake, 
nor even India. It is the cause he represents, whose out- 
come, victorious or disastrous, may shape the destiny of 
Europe for a century or more: the cause of non-violence. 
For several years now I have been in close contact with 
the world’s social movements, notably in the U.S.S.R. and in 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Asia. I know what angers and hopes have been aroused by 
Indian Satyagraha, and I know that this heroic and patient 
experiment of a people guided by a Judge of Israel is the 
only barrier, the last barrier still holding out against the 
immense accumulated flood of violence; for it is the only 
powerful and effective instrument by which the social trans- 
formation, or rather the sudden mutation, which is both 
inevitable and urgent can be achieved .without hatred. 
Without Gandhi the torrent will be unleashed over the whole 
world! And I shall be the first to cry havoc, for today’s 
social state must be swept away at all costs — and it will 
be. ...” 

So I ask him, if he cannot come, at least to send a 
message in support of “the man who may well carry with 
him into death the last hope for peace in our disturbed 

But Albert Schweitzer replies from Gunsbach (24 
September) : 

“My dear friend , I am deeply moved by what you say, 
and also that in your present state you should take the; trouble 
to write. Tou know how heavily thoughts of the future of the 
world weigh on me; I suffer from them more than I can tell 
you. . . . But it is absolutely impossible for me to come to 
Geneva. . . .” 

. . . (Too bad! And too bad for Schweitzer as much 
as for Gandhi, who is the epitome of Schweitzer’s faith: 
his idea of “respect for life” carried into action. . . .) 

Happily we receive this telegram from Andrews in 
London on the evening of the 26th: 

“Thank God Mahatma’s life is spared — Andrews.” 

Non-violence has conquered. 

We send a cable to Gandhi (morning of 27th): 

“Happy for your great spiritual victory .” 

(But it was *high time! The news from India was 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

alarming, and the finicky English Ministers refused to 
bring forward their reply by one single hour; they had 
to have their calm weekend’s rest before dealing with 
business. If I had to invade England I would chocse 
Saturday afternoon; all the government would be in the 
country until Monday morning.) 

Gandhi had told Ramsay MacDonald on 13 September 
that he planned on 20 September to start his fast unto 
death (or victory). 

224. Extract from Romain Rolland’ s Diary 

13-14 October 1932 .- Young Father Elwin spends the 
night at the Villa Lionnette and spends the next day with 
us. I spoke in my Indian Chronicle (see Europe ) of this 
courageous English missionary, who has become a friend of 
Gandhi and has devoted himself to bringing material and 
moral aid to the poorest people of India. 

. . . Elwin has harshly condemned by his bishop 
and the Anglican church in India as soon as his sympathy 
with Gandhi became apparent, but this has not stopped 
him. The Anglo-Indian police, which has its eye on him, 
has carried out searches at his dwelling, and he can receive 
no visitor in his desert abode without the fact being im- 
mediately reported. The whole of India is covered by a 
tight network of policemen — nearly all of them Indians, 
poor starving devils who can be made to do anything for 
money, but they admit it themselves with shame, and in 
secret often declare their sympathy for Gandhi. 

. . . And nothing is done to bring help to these 
wretched millions of human beings. The peasants among 
whom Elwin has settled, who possess nothing, are crushed 
with taxes. The diabolical hypocrisy of the Anglo-Indian 
State has devised an infernal scheme whereby India is 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


forced to infect herself with imported opium, and the only 
resources which the Government is prepared to devote to 
public education in India are drawn from the sale of this 
poison. Thus if you want one, you have to accept the 

. . . He is to go back to India next month, after 
spending a few days in Italy in a Franciscan hermitage, 
at which two sisters have been profoundly touched by the 
spirit of Gandhi (which their superiors have condemned, 
but the Pope has granted them his protection). . . . 

. . . We exchange our judgments of Gandhi; on the 
scientific character of his great “Experiment”, whose out- 
come is not yet assured, but which he confronts with facts, 
— on the relationship between his spirit and that of 
Buddha or Christ,-etc. 

225. Romam Holland to Gandhi 

Villeneuve (Vaud) Villa Olga 
22 October 1932 

My dearly beloved and revered Friend, 

We received your two kind letters of 16 and 30 Sep- 
tember. Thank you for thinking of us at such a time! 

We were with you in thought during those days, and 
I don’t need to tell you that our thoughts were full of 

But I knew that you were right. I knew that your 
sacrifice was not only great, but just, legitimate and neces- 
sary. It was your mission at this decisive hour for your 
people, and no cause demanded it more imperiously than 
that of the untouchables. The honour of India, her moral 
unity which is the essential kernel of all social and poli- 
tical unity, her very right to exist and to live again, are 


Romain. Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

at stake in this preliminary reparation made to the victims 
of an outdated social order, this reacceptance into the fold 
of millions of brothers who had been driven out. The 
whole of humanity has an interest in the results, of the 
“ great experiment 55 which you are directing, and no one, 
not even you, can know the results in advance. We can 
but wait for them and believe, as the “great experiment ” 
unfolds itself according to the strict laws of Truth — like 

But on these results depend the destiny of the world 
and the shape of future action in it, and only the success 
of the “ Satyagraha ” experiment can save humanity from 
the torrents of violence hanging .over it. We must pray, 
and the true prayer is the one which, like yours, is offer- 
ed in the midst of action. 

My sister and I send you our warmest thoughts of 
love and respect. Please pass on our friendly greetings to 
those of your companions at Villeneuve who are with you 


Romain Rolland 

I am sending you in another package the copy of a 
message by me about you which was read to a pro- 
Indian assembly in Geneva. 

226. Extract from Romain Rolland’ s Diary 

1 November IP.5J?.— Visited by Dr. Ansari, one of the 
leaders of the Indian movement, president of the Muslim 
'National Congress, one of the past presidents of the All 
India National Congress, and a personal friend of Gandhi; 
he has several times been in prison, the last time being 
for nine months in Delhi. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


- - • Gandhi was tricked by Lord Irwin during 
those touching talks they had before the Round Table Con- 
ference. Irwin managed to win his confidence and persuade 
him that he alone would be enough to represent India 
at the Round Table, and that as to the other delegates, 
Gandhi could choose whoever he liked and they could go 
as his counsellor. Gandhi, believing in his false appea- 
rance of friendliness, had himself named as sole delegate 
at the Indian Congress at Karachi — despite all the warnings 
of the mistrustful Ansari. Immediately afterwards, Irwin 
forgot all his promises. Gandhi asked in \um to have Dr. 
Ansari, Mrs. Naidu and Pandit Malaviya attach* d to 
him; nobody paid any attention, and in London he found 
himself isolated amongst puppets who served England’s 
interests with docility. 

He was well acquainted with the now legendary lea- 
der of the Pathans in the North-West Frontier Province 
(Peshaw'ar), Abdul Ghaffar Khan. He was his lieute- 
nant in the Muslim National Congress, of which Ansari is 
President; they were in prison together for several months. 
He describes him as a giant of a man, one of whose hands 
alone is bigger than both of his (Ansari’s), — without much 
intellectual education, but with remarkable natural intelli- 
gence, and with a great hold over his people. A fervent 
adept of Gandhi’s non-violence, which he practises not out 
of politics, but out of the depths of his faith, and which 
he has spread among the Pathans, athletic warriors like 
himself. England has made every effort to stimulate vio- 
lence among them; she has flooded the Fiontier Province 
with Agents Provocateurs, and has imposed a cruel repi esaion 
on the whole population; Ansari, who made an enquiry, 
considers that Father Elwun's report sins on the side of 
indulgence (Elwin not having been able to interrogate the 
prisoners, who had most to suffer). 


Romairt Holland and Gan d hi : Correspondence 

In reply to my question, Ansari says that the 
Viceroy is not the absolute master in India. The three 
governors of the provinces — the “Presidencies” of Bom- 
bay, Madras and Calcutta (the latter being the worst) are 
masters in their own territory, and communicate directly 
with the Secretary of State for India in England without 
passing through the Viceroy. . . . 

. . . Ansari appears very sure of victory. He admires 
the unshakable resolution of those thousands among his 
compatriots who face up to every violence (at his departure 
in the spring, he says, there were more than 90,000 
Indians in prison, while the government claimed that there 
were only 20,000 to 30,000). Ansari says that it is im- 
possible to relate adequately what Gandhi has made of 
the men who fight alongside him. He has freed them 
of every fear, every worry and every doubt. The morale 
of these prisoners is in a state of heroic serenity. 

227. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

December 1932 .— Gandhi is talking about another fast 
to obtain the opening of a temple to the untouchables; I 
tell him by cable 1 that European opinion will not follow 
him in a repetition of his heroic act of last October, if it 
is for a secondary objective. 

* This telegram has not been found. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


228. Gandhi to Madeleine Holland 

Teravda Central Prison 
6 January 1933 

My dear Madeleine, 

It was a great joy to receive your brief letttr, especial- 
ly as it recalled the precious days of communion with you 
all. It was like meeting members of one’s family. 

If the events at the time of the late fast were a mira- 
cle, as they were, it was purely God’s work. I was but 
a very humble instrument in His hands. At no stage 
did I feel that I was doing anything. I simply could not 
do it, but when I said that it was God working through 
me, it was literally true, as far as my knowledge went. 

But I observe from your great and good brother’s 
telegram 1 to Devdas that people on the Continent had 
not understood the contemplated second fast. I don’t 
wonder at it. The whole conception seems to be so new, 
and yet it appears to me to be the logical outcome of a 
prayerful search after truth. There is no prayer without 
fasting, and fasting which is not an integral part of pra- 
yer is mere torture of the flesh doing no good to anyone. 
True fasting is an intense spiritual effort, a spiritual striv- 
ing. It is a penance and a process of self-purification. 
Such a fast generates a silent unseen force which may, 
if it is of requisite strength and purity, pervade all man- 
kind. I have seen its unseen pervasive effect on a small 
scale but sufficiently large to know that it is a mighty 

1 This telegram has not been found. 


• Roxaain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

fore*-. It was in this instance an inevitable step in the 
prosecution of the campaign against untouchability. I 
would have been false to myself, to my companion Kelap- 
pun, and to the cause of the Harijans, if I had faltered. 
At the present moment, however, it stands indefinitely 
postponed. Even now, perhaps, I have not made 'myself 
clear. It is difficult to do so. But I have no hesitation 
in saying that time will prove the correctness of the step, 
and in any case for me it was a call from God which I 
could not resist. If a further explanation is necessary, 
please do not hesitate to write to me. 

I have been trying to find out a suitable adjective 
for your brother. To write of 'him to you as “Mons. 
Rolland” or as “your brother” -sounds too prosaic and 
distant. To describe him as simple “brother” is too fami- 
liar and does not convey adequately the existing relation- 
ship. The two words that come to me are “Rishi” or 
“the Sage”. They are almost synonymous terms but not 
identical in meaning. Subject therefore to his -and- your 
approval, -I am going henceforth to describe him as “the 
Rishi”. I hope that this letter will find him in full pos- 
session of his normal health. I -am afraid one dare not 
hope for perfect health for”- him. He will not give it all 
that chance. It would mean concentration on physical 
health at the expense of concentration -on his- historical 
researches, and with him historical is -also -spiritual, or else 
he would not be a Rishi. Please tell-^the -Rishi that some 
months ago I read for the first time his volumes on Rama- 
krishna and Vivekananda. The reading -gave me great joy 
and enabled me more fully than before 'to get a measure 
of his love for India. 

Mira and I exchange -weekly letters. She is quite 
happy in her rest-house. She is -studying Hindi, reading 
the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and at the present 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


moment she is reading Dr. Gour’s work on Buddhism. 
She is keeping her health and making dietetic experiments. 
There is no restriction about her diet. She is therefore 
able to get what she requires. She gets also one or two 
papers and whatever non-political books she may need. 

Mahadev Desai is with me. The two others you 
do not know personally. Love to you both from us both. 

Bapu 1 

229. Extract from Romain Holland’ s Diary 

5 February 1933 - About 7 o’clock in the evening, 
Gibarti, secretary general of the Secours Ouvrier 
International, arrives from Berlin. The object of his- 
visit is to get my name for a new campaign they want 
to launch, the pretext being the scandalous condemnation 
of the prisoners of Meerut, in India. (About 45 English 
and Indian Trades Unionists and Communists, detain- 
ed for 4 years without having committed any crime worse 
than propaganda, condemned to 10, 15, 25 years, in one 
case even to life detention in the Andaman Islands). . . . 

The cause I am asked to support is a compelling 
one and makes just claims on me. Yet I state my 
conditions: the movement once begun must not count on 
using my name against Gandhi and his movement! 

. . . Gibarti assures me (and he seems sincere) 
that there is no intention of taking a stance against 
Gandhi in this affair, and even if it were true (as I say' it 
is) that Gandhi has expressed real sympathy for the Meerut 
prisoners, it would be excellent for the cause to have 

1 Madeleine Rolland had written to Gandhi for the anniversary' of 
his visit to Villeneuve. (M. R. R.’s note) 


Romain Holland and G a nd h i : Correspondence 

Gandhists associated with it! ... As to Gandhi, on 
whom we do not press the discussion as it would take too 
long and our business is urgent, it is obvious that Gibarti 
and his friends comically assimilate him to the Social 
Democrats, whose ridiculous and harmful activity (passi- 
vity) they can observe on the spot in Berlin. It is easy to 
see how this confusion can come about in an unsubtle party 
of action: Social Democrats and Gandhists appear to them 
equally as obstacles in the way of achieving action. 

230- Extract from Romain Holland’ s Diary 

22 February. -I send Gibarti my appeal on behalf of the 
condemned prisoners of Meerut. 

231. Devdas Gandhi to Romain Holland 


April 10, 1933 
(. Permanent Address: Satyagraha Ashram, 

Sabarmati, India ) 

Revered Sir, 

The enclosed is a statement by Pandit Malaviya re- 
lating to assaults on Congress prisoners in Calcutta. It 
also furnishes information about the Congress session 
recently held there against very heavy odds. 

I was arrested on my way to Calcutta, but released 
after the session — and the assaults! — were over. I am 
•sorry to have missed both. 

Father is keeping fairly good health in jail. All talk 
of his probable release seems absurd. They do not want 
to release him before they have tried their best to humi- 
liate him. They want him to change his mind, deny all 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


that he has been preaching and— so to speak— sign a bond 
for future good behaviour. 

We are therefore determined to carry on the move- 


ment in spite of every difficult). The country, we are 
confident, will gain in the end by our continuing to suffer 
by our own free will. Any backsliding would be disastrous. 

Mirabehn and my mother arc in the same jail together. 
They arc both happy, though not always in the best of 

With kindest regards, 

Yours sincerely, 
Devdas Gandhi 

232. Extract from Romain Roll and’ s Diary 

April fP55.-Gandhi announces on 29 April that in a 
week’s time he will resume a three-week fast for the cause 
of the Untouchables. (This fast seems directed less against 
the British Government than against the Indian Brahmins 
who oppose the reintegration of the Untouchables into the 
Hindu community.) I wrote several months ago what I 
thought about the inopportuneness of this renewed fast, 
and Gandhi replied, repeating all his arguments in favour 
of the fast with his usual gentle obstinacy. Yet no one 
foresaw it happening before October, and between then and 
now there was hope for a change of attitude in the British 
Government and among the Brahmins. This cannot now be 
counted on, and one can do no more than let him get 
o.i with his dangerous act, whose implications are per- 
haps greater in India than may appear. 


Romain. Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

233. Romain Rolland to Gandhi 

Villeneuve (Vaud) Villa Olga 
2 May 1933 

My dear and revered Friend, 

We are with you in these grave days when again your 
life is at stake. We hope ardently that the hardness of 
heart of those of your people who are blocking the great 
work of national reparation to the Untouchables will final- 
ly give way. Let them tremble at the prospect of as- 
suming in the eyes of history the execrable responsibility of 
causing your death! They would bear the mark on their 
brow in the memory of mankind for evermore. 

But allow me to read in your sacrifice an even broa- 
der meaning than that of the Untouchables’ cause! At 
this tragic moment of history, when the whole world is 
exposed to the most atrocious violence, on the eve 
of world wars surpassing in cruelty and extent all that 
have gone before, — a moment when the whole of huma- 
nity is divided between oppressors and oppressed, and when 
the latter, maddened by their sufferings and by injustice, 
as if drunk by the violence which rends them, see no other 
recourse than in that very violence, — your self-immo- 
lation to that sacred Justice which is all love and no 
violence takes on a universal and holy value, — like the Cross. 

Though, alas! the Cross has not saved the world, it 
has shown the world the way to save itself, and its rays 
have cast light on the night of millions of unfortunate people. 

.... But let us hope that we are spared this sacri- 
fice today! May you remain a long time — I will not say 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


among us (for I doubt whether my own sickness-ridden 
life will last much longer), but among our brothers and 
sisters in India and the whole world who need your presence 
on board to guide the ship in the storm. 

Give me your blessing, and my sister Madeleine ! 

I embrace you affectionately, 

Romain Rolland 

P. S. Fraternal greetings to our dear guests in Villeneuve, 
to your brood: our sister Mira, Devdas (whose letter we 
received) , Mahadev Desai and Pyarelal. I often think of 

234. Extract from Romain Rolland ’s Diary 

May 1933 .- Gandhi commences (or recommences) his 
twenty-one-day fast for the Untouchables on 8 May. On 9 
May he is freed unconditionally by the British Government, 
careful to wash their hands of his death in advance. As 
a chivalrous reply, Gandhi asks the President of the Indian 
Congress to suspend Civil Disobedience for six weeks. 

235. Extract from Romain Rolland’ s Diary 

June 1 933.— Mah ade v Desai writes to me on the twelfth 
day of Gandhi’s fast (now finished, without accident, on 
the 21st day) to say that my letter reached him and did 
them a lot of good; all the more so because this time 
Gandhi’s fast met with the disapproval of nearly all his 
Indian friends, including Tagore. I do not approve either, 
at heart, but I know it is useless to discuss it with Gandhi; 
for him it is much less a form of political action (or pro- 
test) than an act of purification and communion with God. 


Romain Rollajnd and. Gandhi : Correspondence 

As far as I can judge from reports on the spot, it must 
have been some kind of ordeal. Gandhi, who gives no 
voice to his moments of discouragement, must have been 
saddened by the ineffectiveness of his sacrifices and those 
of his admirable disciples, in prison for a year and a half. 
It seems to me that he must have said to his God: “If I 
am wrong, if you need me no longer, take me back!” For 
one of his first words after breaking his fast on the twenty- 
first day was: “Since God has not taken me back, it seems 
that he still needs me to fight, and I return to the fight 
with renewed ardour.” 

236. Gandhi to Madeleine Holland 1 

25 August 1933 

Dear Sister, 

Just a word to send my love to you and to the Rishi. 
Mira will tell you all about the latest astonishing event. I 
hope that you are both well. Andrews too is here now. 

Ever yours, 

237. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

A member 1933.-1 receive from Saumyendranath Tagore 
(nephew' of the poet and a young Indian Communist, who 
has been in Europe for 7 years) a letter from Paris, dated 
16 November: 

“Dear Mr. Rolland.-The other day I had a long con- 
versation with Mr. Andre Gide on the European situation. 

1 Retranslated. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Communism and India. Speaking of India, our conversa- 
tion naturally touched on the subject of Gandhi and 
Gandhism. I told Mr. Gide that in my opinion and in 
that of many Indian youths, Mr. Romain Rolland’s book 
on Gandhi had harmed the ultimate cause of India. I 
also informed Mr. Gide of my book on Gandhi, which 
will shortly appear in French, and in which I have criti- 
cised your attitude towards Gandhi and Gandhism. This 
has made me very optimistic about the woik in Europe 
on behalf of India which I ha\e envisaged for a long 
time, and it gave me the courage to write you this letter. 
As briefly as possible, I should like to explain to you the 
reasons for my objections to your attitude towards Gandhism. 
Gandhism is essentially negative in its attitude towards life, 
whether from the economic, social, sexual or artistic point 
of view. I have heard people in Europe describe it as 
being a mystic primitivism. I cannot accept this expla- 
nation, for in my opinion true mysticism in its purest 
expression is direct, simple and lyrical. Gandhism cannot 
claim to be thus considered. Although I am a Communist, 

I cannot prevent myself from considering Lenin to be a 
great mystic, possessed as he was of the mystic qualities: 
being remarkably direct, sensing the shortest route to rea- 
lity through the complicated labyrinth of phenomena, 
and having a real simplicity. Gandhi is not a mystic, 
he is simply primitive. 

What a pity that in your formidable enthusiasm for 
Gandhi, you have praised and lent your support to all the 
parts of a cult which, I am sure, you would have* totally 
condemned if you had evaluated them in relaiion with the 
historic task of our time and the ultimate values of huma- 
nity! I do not mean to bore you by a detailed analysis of 
Gandhism, I should merely like to point one thing out 
to you: Gandhi has created a very dangerous illusion in 


Roxnain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

many minds by means of his ‘non-violence’. Few people 
have realized ^that Gandhi’s ‘non-violence’ is a mantle 
which covers the maximum of social violence. I have 
tried to show in my book on Gandhi how Gandhi has 
completely failed to embrace the problem of violence and 
non-violence. Thus, even from the point of view of mili- 
tant pacifism, which in my opinion is represented by 
Communism and Communism alone, the ‘non-violence’ 
of Gandhi must be condemned by every true lover of 

However strange this may appear, I have been struck 
by the remarkable resemblance between Gandhism and 
Hitlerism. Hitler wants to create a ‘pure’ Nordic culture; 
similarly Gandhi wants to replace the ‘non-spiritual’ Wes- 
tern culture by the ‘spiritual’ Indian culture. Hitler has 
prohibited marriages between Jews and Germans; Gandhi, 
in a different situation, has written against mixed marria- 
ges and common meals between Hindus and Muslims. 
Hitler has burned books, and Gandhi has burned clothes. 
These two autodafes had their roots in the irrational and 
romantic soil of extremely primitive and anti-social minds. 
The inner spirit of Gandhism, despite its profession of 
non-violence, is violence pure and simple; and Hitlerism, 
like Gandhism, is based on racialism. 

In supporting Gandhism, you have strengthened the 
crusade, of the most reactionary type, of Gandhi, against 
so-called Western civilization. I doubt whether it is right 
to call this civilization Western, as it is the only civiliza- 
tion which exists today. The other civilizations have lost 
their inner vitality, and our times have broken the limits 
set by these civilizations. The greatest aspects of modern 
civilization, one of which is Communism, are completely 
beyond the mental horizon of Gandhi. 

Our task in India is to wage war mercilessly against 
Gandhism, on all sides. Gandhism must be completely 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


crushed, if India wants to rank with the other nations of 
the world and advance towards the ideal of a classless so- 
ciety which is the historic mission of our time. We count 
on your help, and we should like you to understand hungry 
India, trampled under foot, which suffers, struggles and 
dreams. If you see India through the spectacles of Gan- 
dhism, you see her as a corpse or as an abstraction void 
of living reality. One of the concrete tasks which we have 
undertaken is to publish a book on the lines of the Brown 
Book on Hitlerism. Perhaps our book could be called the 
Black Book of imperialist terror in India. Mr. Andre Gide 
assures me that he would write something on the subject 
when the book appears, and he told me to write to you 
to ask for your co-operation. If you were good enough to 
agree to write a short preface to this book, the book will 
gain enormously in importance in the eyes of readers in 
Europe and America. . . .” 1 

238. Romain Holland to Saumyendranath Tagore 

14 November 193S 2 

.... My judgment of Gandhi has not changed at 
all; your sources of information know little about me. I 
have a profound esteem for Gandhi, to which, since my 
first book on him, personal affection has been added, for I 
have come to know him personally; he spent some time with 
me at Villeneuve, I had long conversations with him, and 
I was able to appreciate not only the absolute integrity of 
his character, but also his shrewdness in political and social 
action, and above all the living sincerity of a mind w'hich 

1 Retranslated from Madeleine Rolland’s translation. 

2 Date is wrongly mentioned as 14 November 3933, because this 
letter was written in reply to Saumyendranath Tagore’s letter dated 
16 November. 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

is ever seeking to come closer to the truth bv direct and 
scrupulous experimentation, and which never ceases to 
evolve. I advise; \ou to go and see him when you return 
to India and discuss things openly with him; he’s certainly 
able to profit from whatever factual experiences (not 
book-learning) you have gathered, and why shouldn’t you 
too profit from his? In any case, it would be useful for 
both of you to contrast them. In what you write to me 
about him ('particularly in your abusive and insulting com- 
parison with Hitler), you formulate a number of criticisms 
which, even if they may have had some point to them 
7 or 8 years ago, certainly have none today. You ha\e 
been too long away from your country, and some of your 
judgments on Gandhi are seven years behind the evolu- 
tion of Gandhi’s mind. 

.... The role I have assumed in today’s battles, 
which you in your youthful intransigence will no doubt 
find hard to understand, is to try to be a link between 
the tw r o Revolutions, Gandhi’s and Lenin’s, so that the 
two may come together at this hour to overthrow the old 
world and found a new order. 

.... So you must not expect my collaboration in an 
Indian book directed in any way against Gandhi. Indeed 
I am certain that by initiating in France the sort of cam- 
paign against Gandhi of which you speak, you will do 
grave harm to India without Communism- gaining by it; 
for if the West, in the thick of its own tragic worries which 
beset it today, still manages to show r any interest in the 
cause of India and her independence, the cause owes it to 
a large extent to the popularity of Gandhi and the res- 
pect justly inspired by his great character. . . . 

. . . . P. S. I am not unaware of the “ maximum of 
social violence ” (as you put it) underlying Gandhi’s appa- 
rent non-violence. In several of my writings (intredn. 
to La Jeune Inde, 1924, Stock; the preface to Gandhi’s 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Autobiography, Riedcr, 1931) I have insisted on this side to it. 
I wrote: “What nonsense ever to have confus< d this paro- 
xysm of action with the sheeplike race of passive pacifists. 
. . . Gandhi extends human energy to the utmost limits at 
which the cord seems ready to snap. , . . There is 
less distance between the non-violence of Gandhi and the 
violence of the revolutionaries than there is betw< cn her oil 
non-acceptance and the servile ataraxia ot the eternal 
acceptors, who form the reinforcement of all tyrannies and 
the cement of all reactions. . . .” 

239. Conversation between Romain Roll and 
and Saumyendranath Tagore 

November 1933 

. ... S. Tagore: After reading your letter I felt 
that I must see you and talk with you. Of course one can 
say a good deal in a letter, but it is so much easier to get 
things clear in a conversation! Moreo\er Andri s Gide and 
other European friends of mine have advised me to see 
you, especially with regard to my activities in connection 
with the cause of India. I think it absolutely necessary 
that we should unmask the reign of terror exercised over 
India by British imperialism, which is manifesting itself 
at the moment with unexampled savagery. 

Romain Rolland: This terror reigns most intensely in the 
Xorth West, does it not? 

S. Tagore: Quite so. But it is beyond imagination in 
Bengal as well. Soldiers are posted in the villages and 
continually brutalize the inhabitants. There is no longer 
a civil authority; everything there is under military con- 
trol. But besides this task incumbent on us of exposing 
the reign of terror exercised by the British imperialists 
we must fight against Gandhism which supports these 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

imperialists, and we must unmask its reactionary and 
pro-capitalist tendencies. 

Romain. Rolland: I entirely disagree with you in this esti- 
mate of Gandhi. I have had long talks with him and I 
am convinced that if through humanitarianism he seeks to 
mitigate the conflict between capital and labour, he is 
always ready to place himself on the side of labour when 
that is oppressed. Moreover I have had the occasion 
to make over to him here a questionnaire which was sent 
him by the revolutionary syndicalists of Paris. Here is the 
text of his reply 1 which has been typed. He has read and 
approved of it. 

Question : Let us admit, with you, that for a people like 
yours, under a foreign domination, the necessity for first 
freeing themselves from the invader forces them into a pro- 
visory union of classes, and to the formation of one single 
national “bloc”. But events move quickly, and a native 
bourgeoisie and capitalism are developing. With you, as 
elsewhere, capital is concentrated in the hands of a small 
number. The struggle against the British oppressors will be 
followed inevitably by the struggle against the Indian oppre- 
ssors. Will you then continue to ask the workers to further 
the interests of their employers? 

Gandhi’s reply: I make no distinction between the Euro- 
pean and the indigenous capitalists. My works treat of 
the struggle between the workers in factories and the owners 
of those factories apart from the national struggle. It is 
true that I do not consider antagonism between capital 
and labour to be inevitable. Though it might be diffi- 
cult, I think it would be possible to establish a harmony 
between them. But if it were proved that such harm- 

1 The questionnaire and Gandhi’s replies appeared in January 
1932 in La Revolution proletarierme . a monthly revolutionary syndicalist 
teview, published in Paris. (Romain Rolland’s note). 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


ony were impossible in one factory or another, I vhould 
not hesitate to increase the paw « r of labour tl at is to 
say of the organized workers) to such an extent that the 
destruction of capital would result, or its complete trans- 
ference into the hands of labour. In this rase, as in every 
other, Satyagraha w’ould force capita] to the wall, so that 
it would destroy itself on the day when its destruction 
would be j udged to be inevitable. And e\en if capitalism 
should come into the national struggle, I should not 
consider its interests if they w r ere proved to be in opposi- 
tion to those of the community. But I do not wish to 
raise a quarrel with capital at this juncture, unless it be- 
comes absolutely necessary to do so. It would make the 
difficult problem of the moment (the national struggle) 
still more difficult. 

Madeleine Rolland: Gandhi said the same thing at the 
Round Table Conference. 

S. Tagore: It is true that here and there, though very 
rarely, Gandhi has been forced by circumstances to speak 
in this way, but I can give you hundreds of quotations 
taken from his speeches and writings that prove that he 
has been entirely won over by the capitalists. At the 
Round Table Conference he went so far as to say that 
it was unnecessary for the peasants to send representa- 
tives to the assemblies, as they were represented by the 
landlords. Apart from his speeches and his writings, 
Gandhi from the very first day of his political life, has 
shown by his actions that he is on the side of the 
capitalists against the interests of the masses. 

Romain Rolland: Gandhi judges capitalists all over the 
world by some Indian capitalist friends who may appear to 
him lovers of humanity and ready for an understanding 
with the workers. And as the words I have just quoted 
show, he still cherishes the dream that a harmony can be 
established between capital and labour without recourse 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

to a detractive class war. But if the facts show him the 
impossibility of such a hope, he will certainly place himself 
on the side of the exploited workers. I am sorry that 
you do not try to discuss matters with him instead of op- 
posing him. 

.S', lagotc: I must confess that I have not the slightest 
inlluem e over Gandhi, and I do not think that anyone in 
the world could convince him of anything. He is so obsti- 
nate in his irrationality that nothing can be done against 
it. It is, moreover, underestimating his intelligence to 
think that he is ignorant of the ill will of the capitalists 
and the distressed conditions of the Indian masses. I do 
not think that there are any persons in India — and if there 
are, their number is very limited — who are as well acquain- 
ted as Gandhi with the wretched state of these masses under 
the yoke of the Indian capitalists and landlords. But he 
is so fast rooted in capitalism that he cannot extricate him- 
self. Not that he desires anything for himself, it is a ques- 
tion of safeguarding the interests of his class, the bour- 

Romain Rolland: I do not believe that at all. I think 
that Gandhi would like first to form a national bloc, so 
as to free India from the British oppression, and I think 
this would be a wise policy. Once having obtained free- 
dom, one would pass on to solve social problems — those of 
the classes. I agree with Gandhi that one should endea- 
vour in the first place to unite all the Indian forces in a 
bloc against British imperialism. 

S. Tagore: The idea of a national bloc is an illusion, 
and indeed a very dangerous one. We have already had 
the experience of this bloc in China which is semi-colo- 
nial. The result there was that the nationalist organization, 
the Kuomintang, made use of the workers’ associations 
and those of the peasants against the foreign imperialists 
so long as these bodies presented no danger to the inte- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


rest of the bourgeoisie. When, however, the masses de- 
manded social justice, a most cruel reign of terror was 
imposed on them. This national bloc cost the li\e s < f 
thousands of our best comrades in China. If we acted 
in the same way in India, a country a bundled per cent 
colonial, history would 1 epeat itself. If you wi-h to speak 
of a colonial revolution, you must never lose sight of two 
important facts: first, such a revolution would coincide with 
the revolt of the proletariat all over the world, that is to 
say, with the decay of capitalism; second, that a So\ iet 
state has been in existence for sixteen years. These two 
facts entirely change the aspect of an e\ entual revolu- 
tion of the colonies. The Indian bourgeoisie is not so 
fast asleep nor so stupid as not to sec that a revolution 
here, while destroying the British domination, would also 
inevitably destroy their own domination. It would rather 
share the profits with the British imperialists than lia\e 
no profits at all. The best proof of what I say is to be found 
in the appeal that thirty of the most prominent landholders 
in Bengal sent to the Viceroy in 1930, offering him their 
services in order to crush the movement for India’s inde- 
pendence. It is equally striking that the Indian National 
Congress, of which Gandhi is the leader, has never taken 
any action against these men. Two different classes, two 
different attitudes towards British imperialism' — that is the 
sole reality. The national bloc is a myth. 

Romain Rolland: It seems to me that in this struggle there 
is only one point on which Gandhi will never give way — 
that of non-violence. He says: “If y-ou wish to employ- 
other tactics, do so! But I shall withdraw; I will never 
agree to help in them.” As far as I am concerned, I do 
not like the word “non-violence”. One should say rather 
“non-acceptance”. Violence is everywhere in life. We 
must fight it with all the violence of the soul opposed to 
it. Gandhi’s so-called non-violence is a fixed effort, a 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

hetown of non-acceptance, the grandeur and necessity of 
which are more than ever needed at the present time 
when brutality roams free. Brute force has found an apo- 
logist in Spengler, who in his latest works mocks at all 
we consider humane in life and exalts cruelty. Gandhi 
is the last defender of the humane. If that hope is des- 
troyed, the fiercest of combats must follow. 

S. Tagore: I do not acknowledge the “non-violence” of 

Gandhi. I am always surprised that the intellectuals in 
Europe have not seen the nothingness of it. Gandhi 
justifies every social violence; the existence of classes, of 
castes, etc. How can anyone who justifies such things 
be called “non-violent”? Gandhi has shown himself ut- 

terly incapable of tracing violence to its source. If he had 
agreed that capitalism in itself was violence, that class 
domination w r as a form of violence, one would have seen 
that he had really grasped the problem. When Rabindra- 
nath Tagore was in Europe in 1930, I discussed the ques- 
tion of non-violence with him and he told me that 
he would write an article about it. But up to now he 

has not done so. His idea of non-violence is as incom- 
plete as that of Gandhi, for they believe in the necessity 
of class divisions. They are not wath the masses. Tagore 
sees the problem from the intellectual point of view — 
Gandhi does not see it at all. 

Romain Rolland: What Tagore discerns through his intel- 
ligence, Gandhi’s instinct, that can penetrate the minds of 
the masses, reveals to him. 

S. Tagore: In spite of all his attempts at simplicity, 
Gandhi has no sincere love for the masses of India. It 
was no effort for Lenin to be simple. He was with the 

masses not only in Russia, but all the world over. But 
Gandhi has made use of the Indian proletariat to serve the 
interest of the Indian capitalists. 

Romain Rolland: I have already told you that I entirely 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


disagree with you. I admire Lenin, but in my eyes Gan- 
dhi is a kindly servant of his people and of all the peoples. 
To go back to the question of non-violence, I have even 
known Indian nationalist leaders (whose temperaments 
were clearly inclined to violence) justify Gandhi. Lala 
Lajpat Rai who gave his life for India told me that this 
non-acceptance was really the most powerful weapon in the 
fight for freedom. For it is practically impossible for 
India, deprived of arms and ammunition, to oppose the 
British domination by violent means. There would be a 
terrible massacre if the English, making violence offered 
by India their excuse, were to employ every violent 
method at their command. Whatever suffering India may 
endure tinder their present rule, violence exercised by 
Indians would be the signal (perhaps awaited by impe- 
rialists) for a repression causing infinitely greater suffer- 
ing. And I may add that the non-violent non-acceptance 
of a whole people, apart from its economic efficacy against 
England, offers the only chance of acting on the feelings 
of the rulers and of disposing them in favour of the auto- 
nomy that India claims. 

S. Tagore: Non-violence can be looked at from two diffe- 
rent points of view', the tactical and that of its intrinsic 
worth. From the first point of view it is certain that 
we are not powerful enough at the moment to undertake 
a struggle against British rule. That can come later. Thus 
the use of non-violence can only depend on the political 
situation at the time. I have a deep respect for those 
w’ho have given their lives for w'hat they held to be the 
cause of India — who have let themselves be murdered by 
the police and the soldiers without resorting to violence. 
But I must say that in spite of its sincerity, nearly all 
this idealism has been in vain, because it was not based 
on reason. And I am persuaded that non-violence is entirely 
incapable of changing the hearts of the imperialists. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

British imperialism, like all imperialism, has no heart; it is a 
system, something mechanical. We cannot change it, wc 
must destiny it, root and branch. If any change has 
1 1 ken pl.u e, it has been for the worse. It has only shown 
itself more frenzied in its exercise of an uncalled-for 
ten oi ism. 

Romain Rolland: It is asking too much to expect a change 
in the sentiments of the rulers, and in the opinion of their 
country, in the short space of time that has elapsed bet- 
ween the two Satyagraha movements in India. But the 
hope of such a possibility remains, based, moreover, on the 
interests of Great Britain who would be facing a whole 
race on strike. I do not know all the details of the poli- 
tical situation in your country. It changes from month 
to month. So I cannot speak of it with certainty, but 
I can judge of these grave problems by what is happen- 
ing in Europe. Here all the available forces of both vio- 
lence and non-violence are not too many — they are not 
even enough — to fight imperialism and Fascism suc- 
cessfully. Barbusse and myself, at the International Con- 
gress of Amsterdam in August 1932, called up all these 
allied forces and tried to mobilize them. In the struggle 
against Fascism, I attach the highest importance to the 
conscientious objectors and the non-violent non-acceptors who 
say to the Fascist governments: Sf W T e shall not obey your 
orders, whatever you may do.” They are a w T ing of the 
great anti-Fascist army. \\ r e are aw'are that in most 
European countries the Fascists have more forces at their 
disposal than the proletariat. Do not then divide our 
armies! Non-violence is a part of the war against Fascism, 
and carries a hope for the proletariat in Europe. 

S. Tagore: I think that the proletariat w'as wrong in not 
showing enough energy at the propitious moment. 

Rome in Rolland: You must take into account the exhaustion 
caused by the terrible war of 1914-1918. All the European 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


peoples were bled white, physically and morally. The fact 
that they did not use force has nothing to do with idealism — 
true or false ; they stopped the fight through sheer 

S. Tagore : It was certainly not due to idealistic prin- 
ciples, in order to avoid greater violence, that the workers 
did not use force at the right moment. It was due rather to a 
lack of idealism among the socialist leaders of the prole- 
tarian movement in Europe which prevented them from 
making the revolution. This lack was the cause of our fail- 
ure, and because of it, a barbarous Fascism has succeeded in 
spreading over Europe. I make a difference between force 
used by collectivism to recover what belongs to it, and 
force used by individuals to cheat collectivism of its just 
dues. In the last case, the force is spiritual, in the other it 
is violence. 

Madeleine Rolland: What do you think of the prob- 
lem of untouchability and Gandhi’s great efforts to remove 

S. Tagou: It is futile to accept a system of castes, and 
fight against untouchability. Gandhi considers the four 
castes as everlasting natural laws. 

Madeleine Rolland: The untouchables, however, are in a 
far worse position than any other section of the people. 

S. Tagote: That is so. But others are not much better 
off. An orthodox Brahmin would stop eating and throwaway 
his food if I went into the room where he takes his meals. 
Is not that one of the w 7 orst forms of untouchability? Be- 
sides that, in spite of all the efforts made, up to now very 
few temples have been opened to the untouchables. There 
are hundreds and thousands which remain closed to them 
as before. We cannot solve this problem until a successful 
revolution has given us the power. We have learned from 
Russia how difficult it is to destroy superstition in the 
hearts of the people even after a revolution. The task is 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

long and painful. And it can only be successfully achieved 
after the revolution, never before it. 

Madeleine Holland: And you say that much time must 
pass before a revolution breaks out in India? 

S. Tagore: Yes. The launching of a revolution de- 
pends upon so many economic and political factors, not 
only in India but the whole world over. I think there must 
be a long preparation. But the first step should be taken, 
and as soon as possible. 

240. Second Conversation between Romain Holland 
and Saumyendranath Tagore 

Saturday, 25 November 

S. Tagore: I have come to say good-bye. Before leav- 
ing I want to explain to you that our struggle is not con- 
cerned with persons — it is a conflict between two different 
conceptions of the world. Gandhism and Communism are 
mutually exclusive. We very much wish to have you in 
active co-operation with us. 

Romain Holland: I do not believe that Gandhism and Com- 
munism are necessarily mutually exclusive at the moment. 
On the contrary, I consider that they could and should 
unite. The time will come without doubt when Gandhi 
will have to make his position clear in the fight between 
labour and capital. Then it will be time to decide. 

S’. Tagore: That time has long passed for us. Those among 
us who at one time wholeheartedly supported Gandhi have 
discovered that (even leaving out the new' world, the new 
relationship between human beings for which we work and 
to which we aspire) it is impossible to gain national inde- 
pendence by his methods. 

Romain Holland: Gandhi believes in the spiritual power of 
tradition. But he is not rooted i n the past. He is a man. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


on. the march and he is absolutely sincere. 

S. Tagore: That is something everyone can say. Even 
Mussolini can say that he is looking for truth. 

Rnmam Rolland f forcibly,) : Xo, no ! You cannot mention 
these two names in the same breath. All Mussolini’s being 
is concentrated in his ego. His ambition and his pride domi- 
nate his every action. Even Hitler, who is far less intelli- 
gent than Mussolini, is more sincere in this respect. 

S. Tagore : Perhaps you do not know that at the present 
moment the Indian nationalist newspapers, specially the 
ones in Calcutta, continually flatter Hitler. They go so far 
as to call him the Saviour of Germany. 

Romain Rolland: I know in any case that Mussolini seems 
to enjoy great prestige among young Indians, specially in 
Bengal. I have more than once opposed this enthusiasm. 

S. Tagore: Indian nationalism will turn perforce to Fascism 
one day if it is not crushed at the proper time by a suc- 
cessful revolution. I must assure you again that our struggle 
is one between two different conceptions of the world. There- 
fore, personal loyalty towards whomsoever it may be is no 
longer a duty. 

Romain Rolland: I have told you before that to me Com- 
munism and Gandhism are not necessarily antagonistic 
conceptions of a world. They should be allied against Fas- 
cism — the common enemy. I will write you an Address to the 
Youth of India against Fascism, which I beg you to pass on 
to the young people of your country. But as for Gandhi, 
I remain faithful to him, for I admire and respect him 
more than any man of our time. But if he does not later 
place himself definitely on the side of labour in its conflict 
against capital — as I believe he will do — it will be the hour 
for me to dissociate myself from him. For whatever may 
happen, I am and ever shall be on the side of labour. 

S. Tagore: As I have already said, this hour has al- 
ready sounded for us, and we have decided as to what line 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

of conduct to follow — I am sure events will help you to make 
up your mind. The point of view I have put before you is 
that of thousands of young Indians. Discontent with 
Gandhism is very keen and widely spread over India today. 1 

241. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

Xorembt r 7933.-Saumyendranath Tagore comes from 
Paris to Villeneuve, suddenly and unannounced, on 24 
November. I have several conversations with him, first in 
my sister's house and through her, then in my house, 
through Marie. (He speaks -English, German and Russian; 
not French, but he understands a little.) 

His aversion for Gandhi is total — although he expresses 
it calmly, without raising his voice. It is all the more in- 
expiable because he was at the outset a fanatical supporter 
of Gandhi, and he cannot forgive him for being disillusion- 
ed. It is aimed at much more than the political leader; it 
takes in the whole man — his “Weltanschauung” , as he calls it, 
his individual and social morality, his conception of life, 
his sexual asceticism, his monastic ideal, everything in him 
which seems a return to the past, which he scathingly calls 
“clerical” and obscurantist. At heart, underneath this scorn, 
he betrays the disdainful aristocratic reaction of the Tagores 
against the petit bourgeois of another race, without distinc- 
tion, without a broad culture without any flights of “ly- 
ricism” or metaphysics. Naturally Saumyendranath reacts 
against this notion, as he is, or would have himself be, 
a Communist. But what a strange Communism is hidden 
(from his own eyes, no doubt) under the well-conned formulae 

1 With minor exceptions of detail, these two conversations are re- 
produced in Saumyendranath Tagore’s own published translation 
(Translator’s note). 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


from Moscow! And how little sympathy he must feel 
with that of the men of Moscow ! 1 1 tear more than 
one such confession out of him!) There is a conflict, in 
what he tells me, between his true essential needs, which 
are lyrical and metaphysical, and the social task which he 
has set himself and is courageously assuming, as a Commu- 
nist combatant. But the two points of view come together in 
his scornful and violent antagonism towards Gandhi. On the 
one hand he disdainfully dwells on the nullity 'or, what is 
worse in his aristocratic eyes, the mediocrity ; of Gandhi 
as a mystic. When we speak to him of the reawakening of 
India which Gandhi has stimulated, he loftily replies that 
this reawakening is not due to him, and it goes back to 
Rammohan Roy (here I see an echo of his uncle Rabin- 
dranath’s words) and a whole line of great Indians (whom 
I know as well as he does), who all were ‘ ‘anti- Gandhi sts’ ’ 
before there ever was Gandhism (he obviously means in 
ideology, in mystic and intellectualist pan-humanism). But 
what is the worth of this ideology, confined to a few hand- 
fuls of privileged people, compared with the practical ac- 
tion of Gandhi’s thirty years of public life, and with the 
incontestable fact that by his example and his energy he 
has revived the masses of India and has breathed into them, 
from South to North, the proud awareness of their dignity 
and strength 1 Saumyendranath forces himself reluctantly 
to recognize this; but only to say at once that Gandhi has 
done nothing more than Hitler, and that Mussolini has 
as much right as he to be proud of his labours. His im- 
passioned injustice so blinds him that he refuses to see any 
difference between the Mahatma and the Fascist Fiihrers 
and Duces. He says that Gandhi is the Duce of the most 
crass Indian reaction and that, far from leading India to 
independence, he is leading her back to the gloom of the 
past. He even goes so far as to refuse him any under- 
standing of non-violence; he says that true non-violence 

Roxnaizt Rolland and (Sandhi : Correspondence 


would consist of extirpating all violence from society; but 
he does not say by what non-violent means it could be 
extirpated, nor if, once extirpated, it would not be planted 
again in a different form. I rather believe that his revolu- 
tionary mysticism in the style of the young Saint-Just (he 
is just as handsome, as implacable and as pure) concedes 
of a non-violence which works by the guillotine. 

When the discussion comes down to the level of the 
social situation in India, on which he is obviously better 
informed than I am (though I have no means of check- 
ing), he claims that Gandhi is the instrument of the Indian 
capitalist bourgeoisie, and is intelligent enough to have be- 
come aware of the fact, for at Ahmedabad, near his 
Ashram, he has under his eyes a typical example of crushing 
exploitation of industrial labourers, and he has not reacted 
against this abuse; he goes round preaching patient and re- 
signed labour to the exploited; far from aspiring to social 
change, he wants the maintenance of classes and castes; his 
campaign for the untouchables is no more than, a meaning- 
less game, since untouchability exists between castes and, 
within a class, towards those who have failed to observe 
caste prescriptions. {“Thus I , Saumyendranath, on my return 
to India, shall be a genuine untouchable in my own caste. . . . ”) 
But he does not and will not see that true untouchability 
that of those outside all castes, constitutes an extreme de- 
gree of religious inhumanity, going to the extent of refus- 
ing water, air and life to the out-caste proletariat — and 
that Gandhi, a real man of practical action, first attacks, 
as he must, the most urgent problem. What, then, are the 
means of action of these "all or nothing” idealists like Sau- 
myendranath? Saumyendranath says, perfectly frankly: 
“TVe Communists in India are an extremely small minority.'” Well 
then, what are they going to do? — He replies: “ We must 
start somewhere !” Precisely! Which is exactly what Gandhi is 
doing, and has been doing for the last 30 years, day in 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


and day out. But it is impossible to bring the young fana- 
tic round to the idea of a temporary alliance with the 
Gandhists in order to achieve the conquest of Indian in- 
dependence. He absolutely rejects the idea of a united front. 
He also rejects my suggestion that he should sec Gandhi 
and talk things over with him, trusting in his honesty and 
his sincere search for truth, which never refuses to evolve. 
He says: “In our view this has already been tried.'" And it is in 
vain that I read him the typescript which I have in front 
of me of Gandhi’s replies to a questionnaire on what atti- 
tude he would take in a conflict between capital and la- 
bour, in which Gandhi declares that in any case in which 
Capital proves unjust, he will side with oppressed Labour 
and lead it to crush capital — without even flunking whe- 
ther it would be opportune to maintain a united front in 
the national struggle. Saumyendranath listens (also to 
other threatening declarations made by Gandhi at the 
Round Table against Indian capitalism) , but the words are 
hardly out of my mouth when he acts as if he had not 
heard them: 

I refuse to collaborate in his projected Black Book in 
which he aims to attack Gandhi (he does not press the 
point). But I agree to promise him an Address to Indian 
Youth against Fascism. I am convinced that he and his 
friends will try to exploit it against Gandhi (and I shall be 
forced to intervene in a few months, by condemning their 
campaign against Gandhi in the Indian press). 

.... He is without doubt a generous young idealist, 
very sincere and ready to sacrifice everything for liis faith. 
Which makes it all the more sad to see these fine forces, 
intelligent and pure, hurling themselves against the great- 
est and purest of Indians. 


Roxnain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

242. Extract from Romain Rolland 9 s Diary 

28 Sovember 1933 . -Before he leaves Paris, I send Sau- 
mvendranath Tagore an Appeal to the Youth of India 
against Fascism. I add this note: 

“I am always ready to join with you in your struggles 
against Fascism and imperialism. But I must remind you that 
you are not to use my name, or allow it to be used in any way , 
against Gandhi. I remain firmly attached to his friendship, and 
convinced of the grandeur of his mission, for India and for the 

243. Extract from Romain Rolland’ s Diary 

December 1933- S. Tagore writes to me on 4 December 
to say that he has received my Appeal: “ . . . Many, many 
thanks for your fine message to the youth of India. . . . 
All these last days since I returned from Villeneuve, I was 
turning over and over again in my mind all those things 
which we had discussed in that short time. Every time I 
remembered those words of yours: T cannot take part in 
this because of my personal loyalty to Gandhi.’ I was 
wondering if personal loyalty was after all not that dange- 
rous irrational sentiment which has created lots of havoc 
in human society. Mussolini obliges each Fascist to take 
the oath of personal loyalty to him, so does Hitler. But 
the Communist Party never obliges its members to take 
an oath of personal loyalty to Lenin, it enjoins us to be 
loyal to Communism alone. Nowhere perhaps has the evil 
effect of personal loyalty been so evident as in the ‘ Guru ’ 
cult of India. My whole soul rebels against it. I am also 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


against Stalinism, for the same reason as it demands per- 
sonal loyalty for its author. Therefore, I remember to have 
explained to you seveial times the nature of our fight 
against Gandhism. Communism and Gandhism, in my 
opinion, exclude each other. One cannot be both for Gan- 
dhism and Communism, for there is no denying the fact 
that in the long run, from this ‘non-violent' capitalistic, 
nationalistic Gandhism, Indian Fascism is bound to emerge. 
Gandhism does not bring us one whit nearer the solution 
of any problem in any single sphere of our social life. 
Gandhist’s doctrine of non-violence is a thousand miles away 
from the problem of violence, not to talk of the possibi- 
lity of eradication of violence through Gandhism. I do not 
see one single positive idea which Gandhism has given us. 
I cannot allow myself to be swept off my feet once more 
by its tremendous romantic appeal, a false romanticism 
which gives a false hope of a new dawn. Please believe me 
when I say that it often makes me feel very sad to think 
that one of the very, very few men who could have led the 
world out of this chaos, has failed us so hopelessly through 
lack of intellectual perception and also vision. Gandhi 
without Gandhism would be a perfect comrade of ours. But 
alas, I am afraid it is too much to expect from him and 
too beautiful an idea to be true. . . . Your co-operation 
which you have so kindly offered us in our fight against 
imperialism and Fascism, I gratefully accept. This co-opera- 
tion is precious and valuable for our work. We will carry 
on our fight against Gandhism to the best of our ability. I 
assure you that so far as I am concerned, I will try to 
maintain it on an impersonal niveau, from which height 
every action and every idea should be criticised. I believe 
that one day the definitive hour will come when you will 
also be with us in our criticism of Gandhism, this pure and 
simple nationalistic, capitalistic, retrogressive movement. 
Till that moment we must wait. . . .” 


Rom a in Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

I write to him, 6 December: 

“ . . , . Allow me to correct a serious error in your 
interpretation of the word ‘ loyalty ’ as applied to my friend- 
ship with Gandhi. You go so far as to relate this ‘loyalty’ 
to that which Mussolini demands on oath! I should be 
hurt by this comparison if you had not made it in haste 
as you were writing, without checking your terms. Gandhi 
has never asked anything of me, and he expects nothing of 
me; he knows I am a man of independent character. It 
was I who gave him my friendship, my esteem and my 
veneration. ‘ Disloyalty \ to me, is the act of a man who 
betrays his own friendship (which he gives freely), disloyalty 
towards oneself. You tell me that your Communism knows 
no ‘loyalty’ other than loyalty to ideas, not to men. I am 
not arguing with your viewpoint, but it is not mine. I have 
never sacrificed my friends to my ideas. I have friends even 
among the enemies of my ideas. It is enough to me that 
they are upright and sincere, and remain worthy of my res- 
pect. I respect Gandhi more than any other man of our time.” 

( Saumyendranath Tagore replies to apologise, but 
without really understanding what I wrote. 

.... Also he sticks to his comparison of Gandhi with 
Mussolini: he finds each of them as “sincere” — or as in- 
sincere — as the other . ) 

Meanwhile I receive the copy of our conversation, trans- 
lated into French. It is just what I might have expected. 

.... I have to rewrite the whole account without 
touching the words spoken by my young interlocutor, but 
correcting my own. I send him back the revised dialogue, 
with the following letter: 

Villeneuve (Valid) Villa Olga 
Saturday , 9 December 1933 

Dear S. T.-I have received your account of your 
visit to Villeneuve. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


There’s nothing harder than retracing a conversation 
objectively, particularly when the writer is passionately 
involved in action and possessed by a great idea. 

You have made a sincere attempt to be objective, but 
the result is none the less an argument reminiscent of those 
which used to be played out in Catholic churches between 
two priests, one playing the role of God’s advocate, the 
other that of devil’s advocate. Naturally God's advocate 
had all the good arguments on his side, and the devil's advo- 
cate used all his skill to lose his cause. 

Without pushing the analogy too far, our conversa- 
tion as you relate it is like a verbal jousting match in 
which the victor is known in advance and triumphs with- 
out resistance. In all sincerity and without meaning to, 
you have reduced my role to that of receiving all the blows 
you strike and replying only by dodging the issue, unobtru- 
sively and evasively. I really must re-establish my true 
position in the debate. Permit me to return to you, along 
with the copy of your French translation, a copy of the 
conversation re-written by me. I have not touched a single 
word of what you said. But I have had to re-write the 
whole of my “role”. 

Of course it’s very difficult to grasp exactly ideas foreign 
to your own when they are expressed in a language you 
do not know well (and your French is not good). Many 
things which a Frenchman like myself expresses only in 
veiled terms are bound to escape a foreigner’s attention. 
Simple courtesy obliged me not to reply to everything you 
said that I didn’t agree with you and that your reasons did 
not satisfy me. I sensed that you were irreducibly convinced 
of what you said, and it was enough for me to state my 
own conviction once without repeating it at every moment 
in the debate. But since you are making our conversation 
into a publication which in your view' will serve as an 
arm for your party against Gandhi, I am forced to reassert 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

my own convictions very clearly and in the full light of 

The text which I am sending you thus corrected is the only 
one whose publication / authorize. I recognize no real exactness 
in the other as far as my own part is concerned. 

I must add that since you mean to use this conversa- 
tion in publications both in Europe and India, I too re- 
serve the right to send my own version to my friends in 
India and other countries. Furthermore, if there were to be 
any controversy about my position in the debate, I should 
feel free to clarify it by extracts from the letters which I 
have exchanged with you. 

I know that you are a very upright and sincere man; 
I sensed this very strongly when I saw and listened to 
you, and I conceived an affectionate esteem for you, for 
ideological differences in no way affect my assessment of 
characters. I ask you therefore to believe that my feel- 
ings towards you are sympathetic, though I regret that we 
are at present divided on the matter of what action is 
appropriate in India. Whether or not we become allies 
does not depend on me, and whether it’s your predictions 
or mine which prove to be right, the time will come in any 
case when we shall be fighting together; this is inevitable, 
as we both are for the defence of the oppressed and the 
exploited . 

244. Romain. Holland to Kalzdas Nag 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
24 December 1933 

.... My sister will have told you that I had a visit 
from Saumyendranatb Tagore. Despite the excessiveness 
of his ideas, I felt a great deal of esteem and sympathy for 
this young man, mixed with pity (he’s suffering, quite 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


seriously I think, from tuberculosis, and the ordeals before 
him will make short work of his delicate constitution;. He 
would have liked to drag me into his party, and he judges 
our great friend, the saint of Sabarmati, with an implacable 
violence which seems to me to cover the bitterness of 
wounded love; lor he once kned him passionately, and he 
hasn’t forgiven him for being disappointed. I don't need to 
tell you that I firmly upheld my iaith and hope in Gandhi. 
We had a long discussion, \er bally and by letter, but to 
no avail, as each of us remained unshakable. He retraced 
an account of our conversation, which he intends to pub- 
lish, and most honourably, he ^ent it to me. Despite his 
attempts to be objective, he gave himsell the best part 
and sacrificed mine; I rewrote all my replies ^without touch- 
ing his) and sent him back the modified text, telling him it 
was the only one which I recognized as authentic. He 
honourably accepted it, and he has promised me that he 
will publish it in my revised form. In the e\ent oi there 
being any polemic in India on the true sense of my thought, 
I shall keep copies available for you ^or, failing me, my 
sister Madeleine w r ill) of the very explicit letters which I 
wrote to Saumyendranath. 

(Between ourselves, though, I wish that Gandhi would 
work towards a clearer formulation of his social thought. 
The time is coming all over the world when we shall have 
to take sides decisively in one or other of the two camps, 
or else withdraw from political action — Into the forest. . . 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

245. Romain Holland to Gandhi 

Villeneuve, Easter 1934 
4 Apiil 1934 

Mv verv clear Friend, 

* * 

I was sorry to learn from an English lricnd returning 
from India that you fear my feelings for you have changed. 
This is not the case at all: I venerate and love you, and 
I am faithful in my friendship. You have perhaps heard 
of Saumyendranath Tagore’s visit to me. This young man 
is hostile to your ideas, but in his hostility I believe there 
is much of his old love for you, and you would be the first 
to esteem and pity him for his agonizing sincerity which 
suffers passionately at the sufferings of India. In the account 
he published of his conversation with me, he very honour- 
ably recognized that my trust in you remains unswerving. 
I wish you could meet him: Saumyendranath is a noble 
force, idealistic and pure, ready for every sacrifice; you 
might be reconciled with him and win him back. But he 
refuses to see you again ( perhaps out of an unconfessed 
fear of being won back by you). 

That said, I must tell you (as I have already done 
anyway, in Villeneuve; that as far as our duties for pre- 
sent action in Europe are concerned, my thought differs 
from yours on certain points. 

The great experiment of Satyagraha which you are 
carrying out, and whose issue is still uncertain, has, I 
hope, a strong chance of victory in India, but it has none, 
in my opinion, in Europe at the moment. 

Present-day Europe is threatened by the most deadly 
danger to have weighed upon it for centuries. All the 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


marshalled forces of an imperialist Internationale of Money 
and bourgeois and military reaction, of which the Fascist 
movements are the instruments, seem to be on the point of 
stifling for centuries the political and social liberties which 
we have conquered by centuries of heroic and patient 
efforts. Germany and Italy are not the only nations to have 
passed into the hands of reaction. Hungary, Poland and all 
the Balkans are subjected to it. The 'working masses of Aus- 
tria have just been crushed by gunfire France and England 
themselves are touched by the plague of Fascism, and 
serious Coup y d'etat are building up in Paris. 

Only the imposing block of die ‘‘Union of Socialist 
Soviet Republics’* Russia, has constituted itself solidly for 
the defence and construction of a new world, more intelli- 
gent and jus!, in which power will be in the hands of libe- 
rated and educated workers. 

But there is no doubt that if Europe “goes Fascist**, it 
will at once form a coalition with Japan and. if possible, 
tlic imperialist powers of America, to destroy the U.S.S.R. 
.'Russia), which by its very existence is a permanent threat 
to all the powers who live by the iniquitous exploitation 
of labour. 

The most commanding duty for those of us Europeans 
who remain free and irreconcilably opposed to imperialism 
and Fascism is thus to defend the U.S.S.R., which is the 
indispensable basis for all hopes of social reconstruction. 

How can she be defended? By Satyagraha, by non- 
action, by refusing violence? The European masses aren’t 
the least prepared for these tactics and this hope. Here and 
there in some countries there are small cells of “conscien- 
tious objectors” to be found; but among their numbers the 
individualism of their conscience usually objects to any 
organization in communal action. Noble efforts like Pierre 
G.-resole’s to unite them in an “International Civil Service” 
are still the exception. Individual “objectors” may save 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

their own souls by their sacrifice, but they don’t think 
enough about sa\ing the souls and the lives of others. It 
may be that centuries hence their sacrifice will prove fer- 
tile and be surrounded with a halo in the eyes of the 
future, as happened with the early Christian martyrs. But 
in today's tragic times it does not modify the ineluctable 
destiny which sets at each other's throats two antagonistic 
worlds: Fascist dictatorship in the service of international 
reaction, and the proletarian revolution. One has to take 

I have chosen my side. I support the world of Labour 
organized by its own hands and freed from the yoke of its 
exploiters. I am convinced that you too support it. As for 
myself personally, I shall never use violence either to attack, 
or to defend myself (such is at least my will; if I should 
fail to live up to this, it would be a product of my weak- 
ness and I should condemn it). But I refuse to condemn 
those who have recourse to violence in self-defence if they 
do not have faith in non-violence and in the ideals and 
“divinity” that it presupposes. When one believes in God 
and the Eternal, it is easy, too easy to sacrifice oneself! But 
two-thirds of the people of Europe — and perhaps not the 
least worthy of esteem — have lost all their belief in God 
and in any kind of eternity whatsoever. The only idea still 
capable of exalting them is their sense of human solidarity, 
their passionate hope that their battles against present in- 
justice may free their sons and brothers, that by their death 
they will found a better world. Such a belief is no small thing. 
We can ask them to serve that faith ; we cannot ask them to 
serve a faith which they do not share. The demands made 
by truth and duty on a man are that he should be sincere 
with himself, courageous and selfless in the harmony he is 
called upon to establish between his thought and his action. 
The Viennese workers who defended their social faith to 
the death against the bombardment by pseudo-Christian 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


Fascists acted strictly according to their duty. The 
duty of the U.S.S.R. and all those in Europe who 
believe in the same social ideal obliges them to defend this 
ideal, at the cost of their lives, by the means which they 
have at their disposal: those who support non-violence, by 
non-violence ; the others. by armed conflict. In no case can 
passivity be admitted. Neither you nor I admit the accep- 
tance of evil, cowardly adaptation to it. You fight by means 
of Satyagraha. The proletarian revolution has other arms, 
but it is the same battle being fought on two different fields 
of action. You are happy on sour field 'even if it is a 
heap of ruins at the moment; ; Pierre G- o'- sole will tell you 

As for myself, I strive .as is my mission ) to build links 
of esteem and alliance between those who, with their diffe- 
rent arms, fight loyally for the same cause. 

I send you my message, at once distant and close, of 
fraternal love and respect. 

Remain Roliand 

246. Remain Roliand to Gandhi 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
Sunday, S April 1934 

My very dear Friend, 

I was surprised by a letter from Mira to my sister 
saying that you were “disturbed” by certain events in nw 
private life. I didn't think my private life would take up 
any of your attention among all the great and terrible 
public events which threaten us and come to pass every 
day. In any case there’s nothing there to “disturb” you. 

I have married Mme. Marie Koudachef, whom you saw 
in Villeneuve, not my professional secretary, as Mira said, 
but a friend linked to me by affection and collaboration 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

for more than ten yeais. (She was already concerned with 
the composition of iny book UEte, the second volume of 
L'Ame Enchantee, which was written in 1923.) 

French on her mother’s side and Russian on her 
father's, she is the widow of Prince Koudachef, who died in 
1921 in the ranks of the White army in the Caucasus, and she 
went through the terrible years of the civil war in the 
Crimea. This will make clear to you that if she has come 
to adopt the ideas of the Soviet Revolution, she needed a 
highly disinterested character to break away from the preju- 
dices of the caste to which she belonged and her memories 
of a husband she loved. Her example is a living proof ol 
the force of truth overcoming self-interest. She has a seven- 
teen-year-old son who, although he bears a dangerous 
aristocratic name, has regularly carried out all his studies 
in the Moscow Government Schools, works well, has an 
intelligent and serious character and is destined for the career 
of Soviet engineer. 

We would have felt no need to make any legal registra- 
tion of our close and long-standing relationship, but for 
the fact that the threatening times in which we live make 
the situation of a Soviet Russian citizen in Switzerland 
(which hasn’t yet recognized the U.S.S.R.) a highly pre- 
carious one, making it difficult for her either to stay in 
Switzerland or to go from Switzerland to Russia and come 
back; in short, she runs the risk the whole time of being 
separated either from me or from her son. This is why, at 
my age, I wanted to assure her future by a legal marriage. 

I think this very clear explanation will be enough for 
you. In any case, I find something humiliating in this 
vastly overused device of blaming the influence of a woman 
on a thinker for the natural evolution of his ideas. I know 
this procedure only too well; it has been used all my 
life, each time I disappointed my friends (and readers) who 
found themselves disagreeing with me: when my 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


J ean-Christophe was playing the young Hercules cleansing 
the Augean stables in Germany and France, when I defen- 
ded the cause of peace and European unity during the 1914 
war against my own compatriots, then when I made 
your noble mission and India's better known in Europe; 
in all these cases, as in this most recent one oi my writings 
in support of the U.S.S.R., I have never done anything other 
than follow my conscience and reason. As early as 1917, 
four years before I heard your name. I was launching an 
appeal (you'll find it in my book Let Preouseun in defence 
of the young Russian Revolution, and I has e never since 
ceased to defend it against its enemies— though equally 
never ceasing to maintain the rights of the independent 
spirit. I have tried to inspire Pan-humanism among my 
friends in Soviet Russia, and to make them aware of the 
powerful idealism within them, which they mask behind 
an apparent “materialism". Between the years 1920 
and 1930 I became impressed by the great constructive 
social and even moral tasks being carried out by the 
Soviet Revolution, and convinced of the commanding duty 
incumbent on us to save its fruits at all costs from its many 
enemies’ attempts to destroy it. I shan’t insist on this mat- 
ter; our friend P. C. will tell you about it at length. In 
any case I intend this year to publish a collection of my 
numerous articles on the subject over the last twelve years; 
this will show the continuous logic behind my developing 
thought and the present conclusions it has reached, t These 
conclusions are still only a stage in the journey; as long as 
one lives one must march and go forward. Walt Whit- 
man’s motto is mine too: “Whoever you are , advance Y" . . . 
This is the motto of all men of goodwill, and it is yours 
too in your unceasing march towards Truth . ) 

Permit me to embrace you with respect and fraternal 

Romain Rolland 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Since I don't know whether this letter will reach 
you, would you be good enough to drop me a line briefly 
to let me know if you receive it? 

247. Gandhi to Romain Holland 


3 May 1934 

My dear Friend, 

I have your two searching letters which Mira has trans- 
lated for me. Your letter about your personal affairs has 
touched me deeply. Your utter frankness and your en- 
deavour to let me understand your action as fully as was 
possible endeared you all tire more. 

Your exposition of the Soviet system I appreciate. I 
shall try to find time to understand -it more fully from 

My love to you and yours. 


248. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

May 1934 

Eugene Lagot, secretary of the French League of Con- 
scientious Objectors, presided over by G. Leretour, writes to 
me (9 May 1934) to ask for my help in an action brought 
by the Paris Public Prosecutor against the journal Le Semeur 
(the League’s mouthpiece) for “complicity in incitement 
of soldiers to mutiny, for purposes of anarchist propaganda”. 
(The article signed by Lagomassini and Bernizet, is indeed 
very imprudent, insulting and provocative.) I take the chance 
to tell Lagot what I think oj the League's attitude for the past year 
or more • it has cut itself off completely from the spirit of 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


non-violence and is committing the most absurd acts of 
pt avocation (to such an extent that suspicions ha\e fallen on 
some of the so-called Objet tors . 

.... The attitude of the French League of Conscien- 
tious Objectors o\er the last year or two, and above all 
that of its official mouthpiece J> Semeur , since the death of 
its former editor, has often disappointed and disconcer- 
ted many of its friends. It appears to be prey to a chaotic 
intellectual anarchy, with the most uncontrolled violence 
confusedly intermingled with non-violence. 

Whereas true Conscientious Objection as practised by 
the great English Objectors, Gandhi and even Tolstoy 
draws its justifiea* on and its essential fore e from tire high- 
est spiritual values — moral peace, tolerance, non-violence, 
self-sacrifice, — Le Semeur is for ever displaying a most ag- 
gressive spirit, and theories as contrary as they could pos- 
sibly be to the whole principle of non-violen< e. . . . 

249, Extract from Roma in Rolland’s Diary 

July 1934. -In my sister’s house I find Mira, arriving 
at short notice from India. (She announced her arrival 
by a cablegram sent at the moment of departure.) This 
sudden resolution came to her in what she calls an“illumi- 
nation”, like the call of an inner voice. Gandhi left her 
free, and did nothing to put her off. Mira wants to try 
to publicise the true situation of the people of India among 
the people of England. She is going to speak about it to 
the workers, in London and in Lancashire. Gandhi does 
not recognize her as his representative among them, but 
as his interpreter — as his daughter who understands him 
best and can explain him. The notes which Mira reads to 
us of their conversation on their last night together suggest 
that Gandhi is still open to reconciliation with England, 
but on the basis of Indian autonomy. He says: “I am not 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

the sonant of India. I am the servant of truth” There is little 
likelihood that he will succeed in making himself heard. The 
British watchword today seems to be to ignore him — and 
in the most insulting fashion. The Viceroy said of him to a 
mutual friend 'with permission to repeat it) that he had 
become certain that Gandhi was insincere in his politics and 
character; Gandhi wrote a very dignified letter to the Vice- 
roy complaining of this judgment and asking him to state 
his reasons. The Viceroy did not even trouble to reply; he 
merely sent an acknowledgement of receipt by a secretary, 
without a word of explanation. British tactics are to isolate 
Gandhi from the Indian Congress and to deal only with 
die latter. Gandhi’s tactics should be to stick closely to 
Congress, to speak in its name and with its approbation. 
He does not seem to be doing so; he is too used to acting 
alone, according to the still voice within him. In a few weeks 
his self-imposed truce finishes. Freed on health grounds 
before the end of his term of imprisonment, he chivalrously 
renounced all political activity until this term elapsed; 
but once the time is up he will resume his liberty, and it is 
much to be feared that he will be imprisoned again on his 
political action. Gandhi does not hide that this time he 
has no desire to be imprisoned. But he cannot dispense him- 
self from acting, and the first thing he will do when he can 
speak will be to demand the liberation of his companions, 
Nehru, Patel, etc., without whom Congress would be with- 
out leaders. He would like to obtain a guarantee of his 
right to speak from the British Government, but the Govern- 
ment is silent. Gandhi cannot even be received in audi- 
ence by the provincial governors. Orders have gone out from 
above not to know him, to treat him as if he did not 
exist. A very British absurdity. The old gentleman doesn’t 
want to know T this barefooted man to whom he hasn’t even 
been introduced. What a target that would be for Viveka- 
nanda’s vengeful irony! 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


250. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

4 October 1934 . rc Console comes, with H>k-ne 
Monastier. He is to leave again for India on the 22nd, to 
organize a team to bring help to the disaster victims. He 
speaks of his first two-month visit. . . . 

.... He speaks of the admirable patience and 
good humour of Gandhi, who never refuses his attention 
to the thousands of questioners, inexhaustible and exhaus- 
ting, who abuse his time; he never lets them ?ee the least 
trace of tiredness and never says: ‘“That's enough!”: of the 
atmosphere of complete liberty which he has been able to 
foster in his circle; of the incredible independence of the 
criticisms against himself which he allows people to voice 
without interruption, with an affectionate attention which 
in any case wins over the minds of his opponents more surely 
than anv other attitude. One of them said to Cere sole: 
“ Whatever you do, however hard you try, he is like a big python 
with open jaws; y ov always fall into them in the end.” 

G’resole admires his unshakable vitality. The frail 
barefooted old man exhausted and outdistanced them all 
when they were out walking — and they are all good walkers 
around this Swiss mountain-dweller used to rough going. 
He also admires his ready adaptability in his contacts with 
his peasant audiences, as soon as he has settled, cross-legged, 
on a little table and begun to speak to them. Each ot his 
little speeches is preceded by a brief religious chant, a reci- 
tative from the Vedas, which creates a mood of intimacy 
in religion around himself and the assembled gathering. 
Gandhi never makes a personal prayer; kis soul never leaps 
directly towards the divinity. They are always texts, read or 


Roxnaln Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

chanted, from the Holy Books, — a liturgy, rather like the 
Catholics, and these worthy Swiss Protestants (Cere sole, 
Edmond Privat) feel embarrassed. One or other of diem said 
to Gandhi: “ Aren't you aft aid this may make your religious 
thought a bit mechanical ?" and Gandhi replied: “Why not?” I 
think he also says: “If you always offer your mind the 
framework > K or the receptacle ; for the best which is in it, this best 
will lise from it and fill it.” 

251. Roma in Holland to Gandhi 

Villeneuve Villa Olga 


8 November 1934 

My very dear Friend, 

You were present in our thoughts during Mira’s too 
brief hours spent with us in Villeneuve; I am asking your 
good messenger to pay you my faithful respects. 

Mira will tell you of the tragic times in which she leaves 
us in the West. Europe, in which men’s minds are everywhere 
under excessive tension, is on -tire eve of a general war 
in which all the frenzy accumulated over the years risks 
being let loose, and it will be difficult then for the voices of 
reason and humanity to make themselves heard. 

Permit me, in feverish Europe’s supreme hour of vigil, 
to appeal to you. 

Of all forms of violence, the most crushing at the 
moment is that of a social state whose demon is Money. 
The power of Money was always great, but over the last 
half-century and even more so since the last war, it has 
become formidably extended by its close connection with 
the big industries (“heavy” industry, armaments, chemical 
products) and a colonial imperialism which spreads its ex- 
ploitation over all the races of the earth. It has taken con- 
trol of political affairs (governments have become nothing 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


more than instruments in its hand , and its monstrous power 
has produced in those who wield it a mental unbalance 
which is leading the whole world to destruction. Large-scale 
industrial capitalism is fomenting war; it is speculating on 
the death of whole peoples opium and its ever more murde- 
rous compounds, heroin, etc. . And untor innately the middle 
classes are blindly sharing in the profits of these criminal 
speculations without being aware of it. 

The w r orlcer and peasant masses are in i»*\oIt. seeking 
to organize themselves to establish a new order, more healthy 
and just, based on labour. 

Non-violence, which condemns their violent actions, 
must understand them; it must fight violence at its source, 
in the unjust and murderous social order which forces diem 
to this choice between Revolution or death! 

It is essential for your voice to be heard in this con- 
flict, in which one is decidedly forced to take sides. This 
is an urgent matter, as a misunderstanding is growing 
between your thought, badly interpreted, and millions of 
the world’s workers. Too many people have an interest in 
fostering this misunderstanding between them and you. 

Like you, I have sought all my life to establish a har- 
mony betw r een opposing forces. There was a time when 
this harmony could flourish naturally between classes asso- 
ciated in a free hierarchy. This time is no more; even that 
of parliamentary “liberalism” is in its death throes, and 
for a long time it has been supported only by lies. What 
w r e see today is the frenzied anarchism of wealth and \ iolence 
(capitalism and Fascism in their most varied formsj. 

Our only salvation is in a new order based on the 
sanctity of Labour and the equality of organized workers all 
serving the community. It is for this that we must work. I 
know, I am certain that this is your opinion too. Say so, 
and say it forcefully! It is important for the salvation of 
the whole world, not just India. Now that you have 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

resumed your independence, you will better be able to 
embrace the whole field of humanity. 

With affection and respect, 

Your friend, 
Romain Rolland 

252. Romain Rolland to Madeleine Slade 

8 November 1934 

Dear Mira, 

I was delighted by those too brief moments spent with 
\ou. I envy your return to India and Bapu. I am giving 
you a letter for him and I wish you a pleasant and easy 
journey. Give my affectionate greetings to Pyarelal, Mahadev 
and all our friends. As to Bapu, you know how I revere 

Your friend, 
Romain Rolland 

253. Extract from Romain Rolland 5 s Diary 

November 1934 .- Mira passes through Villeneuve again 
on her way back to India, staying a day and night with 
Madeleine in tire Villa Lionnette (6-8 November). Since 
July she has been travelling through England, Scotland, 
Wales and the United States, giving a large number of 
lectures (as many as three a day in the United States) to 
very large audiences. Everywhere she has been heard with 
interest and sympathy, and nowhere with more understand- 
ing than in English working-class circles, despite their be- 
ing badly affected by unemployment and poverty (in South 
Males, 80% of the population are unemployed; there is a 
whole generation which has never known work! These 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


people, among whom it would be most excusable to find a 
grudge against the rebel Indians for adding to English un- 
employment by their boycott of British merchandise, are in 
fact the first to approve of their efforts to achieve indepen- 
dence] . The discussions, even with Socialist and Commu- 
nist elements clearly opposed to Gandhian ideology, were 
always conducted with dignity. And the English pros incial 
press proudly reported the meetings, although mart} of the 
speeches were hostile to English policy. 

. ... In the United States Mira found a numerous 
public with a very lively interest in the moral dde of 
Gandhi’s message, and avidly asking questions. She had 
talks with Mrs. Roosevelt. In London she wa- received 
by the main political leaders: Winston Churchill. Lloyd 
George, Sir Samuel Hoare, Lord Halifax ex-Loid Irwin"!, 
etc. The one most solidly rooted in the impossible Dikt it of 
the “White Paper” /'of which in any case he is the main 
author) is Samuel Hoare. The most broadminded is th*‘ most 
conservative: W. Churchill. This man, who refused to see 
Gandhi on his previous visit, received Mira with courtesy 
and spoke of Gandhi with high esteem and of die White 
Paper with scorn. 

.... None of the English politicians seem to have 
an adequate knowledge of India, except Lord Halifax 
( Irwin), who has lived there and who speaks of India, as of 
Gandhi, with emotion and affection. But he says he is bound 
by his party. The Viceroy is still proudly ignoring Gandhi. 

.... The Indian National Congress is being h"kl at 
this moment; and although it has consented to all of 
Gandhi’s demands, Gandhi has officially withdrawn from it 
so as to confirm their new' independence. There would now’ 
be a case for Gandhi to come to Europe to have talks with 
the English statesmen and people without committing Con- 
gress to anything and without being tied to its. apron- 
strings. This would create a completely new’ situation, not 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

without its disconcerting side for the statesmen, to whom 
Mira mentioned it. There is nothing in the law to pre- 
sent a citizen of die Empire from coming to England and 
holding meetings. It remains to be seen whether catas- 
trophic events and threats of a European war will prevent 
this plan from materializing. 

I spoke to Mira about Saumyendranadi Tagore’s book, 
the French translation of which has appeared, and the 
repercussions which it cannot fail to have. I dwell on the 
misunderstanding which is deliberately being widened, on the 
mistrust towards Gandhi which is being encouraged among 
the people of Europe. It is urgent that he should make 
up his mind to speak clearly and uncompromisingly on the 
social question. Mira says that he is concerned about this 
himself and that over the last few months he has set him- 
self to studying Socialism and Communism. He has come 
to understand that die worst of wars is the “daily war” 
being fought all over the world by the capitalist oppressors 
against the impoverished masses. And Mira is returning 
from her travels in Europe and America very much struck 
by die tragic aspects of the social conflict. I am count- 
ing on her to insist on the need for Gandhi to take his 

254. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

November 1934. -Writing to C. F. Andrews (in England, 
from whom I received an affectionate letter), to encou- 
rage him to make a close study of Saumyendranath’s book 
and to reply point by point, without any apologetic pas- 
sion but with objective exactness and precision. I also ask 
him to work on Gandhi in the same direction that I in- 
dicated to Mira. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


255. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

December 1934 . -My letter to Gandhi has readied him 
and been read to him by Mira. He listened with attention, 
expressed his thanks and thinks that the best tiling to do 
would be to reply by an open letter to be published along- 
side mine. 

Since then, reports from India say that the great mill- 
owners in Ahmcdabad supposed to be Gandhi's friends) 
had tried to reduce their workers’ wages, and the workers 
decided on strike action, Gandhi siding with diem. 

256. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

13 January 1935 . -Visited by A. G. Chakravarty, 
Rabindranath Tagore's secretary. . . . Chakravarty is 
much concerned with the social question. Despite his pro- 
found respect for Gandhi, he does not think the Mahatma is 
still young enough in soul to adapt to the new social pro- 
blems; he has finished his course, and it is up to a new 
generation to go further. He sees Jawaharlal Nehru as its 
leader; this is the man whom he most loves and venerates 
in India, and it seems that Nehru already has a great as- 
cendency over the masses. But England Is too well aware of 
the fact, and is keeping him in prison. . . . Alter Nehru, 
the man with most ascendency in India is Abdul Ghaffar 
Khan, the Afghan leader and apostle of non-violence. 
Released for a month or two, then imprisoned ageln. he had 
time to visit the circles of Tagore and Gandhi, and he left 
them fascinated by his forceful serenity. . . . Gandhi, revo- 
lted by his arrest, reluctantly departed from his non-political 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

work organizing village industries, and declared liis wish 
to go to the North-West Province to study the situation 
there. He was refused permission; it is therefore certain 
that Gandhi will soon be arrested again, for several years. 

257. Remain Holland to Sub has Chandra Bose 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
22 Febniaiy 1935 

Dear Mr. Subhas C. Bose, 

I duly received your volume C£ The Indian Struggle 
1920-34'% which you were good enough to send me. I thank 
you for it and congratulate on it heartily. So interesting 
seemed the book to us that I ordered another copy so 
that my wife and sister should have one each. It is an 
indispensable work for the history of the Indian Movement. 
In it you show the best qualities of the historian: lucidity 
and high equity of mind. Rarely it happens that a man 
of action as you are is apt to judge without party spirit. 

.... We, the men of thought, must each of us fight 
against the temptation, that befalls us in moments of fatigue 
and unsettledness, of repairing to a world beyond the battle 
called either God, or Art, or independence of Spirit, or 
those distant regions of the mystic soul. But fight we must, 
our duty lies on this side of the ocean, on the battle-ground 
of men. . . . 

I sincerely wish that your health will speedily recover 
for the good of India that is in need of you and I beg you 
to believe in my cordial sympathy. 

Romain Rolland 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


258. Extract from Romain Holland's Diary 

March 1935.- Raja Rao Soissons, 20 March 193.1' 
sends me a request from an Indian writer. A. X. Krishna 
Rao, who wants to translate Jean-Chrisfnpke or at least 
selections from it) into the Indian “C’anarese” dialect. He 
also tells me that he is following in Europe my introductory 
articles to Ouinze Arts de Combat, and that I must not be hew 
that I am wasting my time in trying to “marry water and 
fire' 5 , in other words, Indian and Soviet thought; there is 
a strong Socialist, or pre-Socialist, movement at work in 
the new India, which will triumph despite “bigotry” the 
Mahatma’s, he hints, and the weakness of Jawaharlal Xehru, 
who nevertheless is the man most aware of the movement. 

I reply (26 March) : 

.... I do not doubt that, whatever happens, the 
Marxist idea wall, in a form appropriate to India, play an 
important role in the social development of your country. 
I am sorry that in this respect Gandhi has been held up 
by prejudices and preconceptions based more on senti- 
ment than on reason, and that he is not setting himself the 
tadc of studying, closely and scrupulously, the great theo- 
retical and practical teachings of Socialism — instead of 
radically brushing them aside with one sweep ol the pen. 
as he did in his Speech to Congress reproduced in the 15 March 
number of Europe. The basis of his social thought is a reli- 
gious creed which is certainly very pure and very lofty, 
but not broad enough to embrace a humanity on the 
march towards new horizons. Either one must march with 
it, or stay behind. The Mahatma’s legs are so good that 
I still hope to see him get up and leave his now outdated 
position, and catch up with the vanguard. . . . 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

259. Gand hi to Madeleine Rolland 


March 28, 1935 

Dear Madeleine, 

I have just read your letter to Pyarelal 1 . Thank God 
I am about to observe complete silence, thus I can reply 
to your letter immediately. Yes, I ought to write a com- 
plete letter in reply to the long letter of the Sage . 2 But the 
very adjective ‘complete 5 frightens me. I have, no time 
to compose a letter which will do sufficient justice to this 
letter from there. I must try to do it during my days of 
silence. Your question is simple. My opposition is to 
socialism as it is interpreted here in its official programme. 
I can have nothing to say against the theory or the philo- 
sophy of socialism. The programme, as it is put here, can- 
not be achieved without violence. The socialists here do 
not exclude violence under all circumstances whatsoever. 
They would take to arms openly, if they saw there was chance 
to usurp power by it. There are in the programme some 
details into which I need not enter. I wonder if this reply 
will answer your difficulties. However, you must write about 
your difficulties more concretely. Love to you both. 


1 This letter has not been found. 

2 Romain Rolland 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


260 . Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

April 75*55. -Visited by Subhas C. Bose, former Mayor 
of Calcutta, one of the leaders of the Socialist left wing of 
Congress, in prison for six or eight years and at present 
retained in Europe. 

.... He wanted to tell me how in his opinion, Gan- 
dhi’s political leadership has arrived at a sterile point at 
which India must break away from it if she wants to ad- 
vance and achieve independence. In his view, the tac- 
tics of non-violent Civil Resistance have failed once and 
for all. They had no chance of success unless they could 
succeed in totally disorganizing the Indian administra- 
tion and Civil Service. They did not achieve the complete 
boycott of merchandise which they decreed. Gandhi never 
consented to go the whole way in the movement he was 
leading. He never authorized any constraints on his sup- 
porters; he was never willing to exercise or to permit a 
dictatorship of Civil Resistance, which was what was needed 
to provide severe examples to intimidate the hesitant or 
the self-interested, the Indian merchants refusing to follow 
the boycott of English products. On the other hand the 
English, after long and not always very confident gropings 
in their struggle against the Civil Disobedience movement, 
finally discovered the right tactics to bring it down. They 
are no longer imprisoning thousands of Indians, as they 
did a few years ago; (all the prisons were full, and there 
seemed to be no end to the condemnations). Instead they 
keep in prison for years the only leaders who are the soul 
of Indian action, men like Jawaharlal Nehru, Bose, etc. And 
they repress the smallest movements by violence. The 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

non-resistance of the Gandhists calms them; they know 
they have nothing to fear on that side. 

.... Gandhi enjoys great popularity in all parts and 
all classes of the country, but he is not using it to bring 
about effective action. No doubt he has done an immense 
amount over the last 15 years to revive the Indian national 
sentiment and to bring the classes closer together. But he 
is by nature a middle-of-the road man who is for ever seek- 
ing compromises between opposite extremes, between classes 
and parties. Thus he sincerely fights against untouch abi- 
lity, and at the same time defends the caste system. He is 
interested in the workers, but prevents them from organiz- 
ing themselves against the bosses. He is no longer openly 
fighting against mechanization, but he is diverting efforts for 
social reform towards his system of domestic industry (the 
spinning wheel) in the villages, which in practice can bring 
no more than insignificant advantages and turns attention 
away from the great and necessary movement towards col- 
lective industrialization. Everywhere he is a restriction, 
on progress. Above all, in his fight for Indian independence 
he has always been careful to avoid emphasizing the eco- 
nomic question, which leads to divisions between classes. 
And according to Bose, it is on these that the Socialist party 
must insist if it wants to act effectively on the masses. 

.... The main reason why he came seems to have 
been to find out my opinion — (I had not realized the value 
attached to it in India) — and whether or not I would fol- 
low them if they were to engage in an independence cam- 
paign not excluding violent means. They seem anxious 
that I should not publicly break away from them. Some of 
my French friends — probably well-intentioned, but cer- 
tainly little qualified to speak in my name — had told Bose 
that I would lose interest in India if she ceased to follow 
Gandhist tactics. I assure him of the contrary, and as to 
the basis of the debate on revolution, violence and non- 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


violence, I try to translate to him f through an. interpreter, 
as Bose speaks and understands only English) the attitude I 
have had to take and my comments on it in my new 
book: Quinze Aiis de Combat. With all due reverence and 
affection for the lofty soul of Gandhi, which I still keep (and 
on which Bose agrees with me) , I do not consider myself 
in any way bound to his doctrine, which in my eyes is no 
more than a great experiment. If, despite inadequate or 
negative results, Gandhi stubbornly adheres to it, — if, above 
all, in the inevitable conflicts between capital and labour 
he does not deliberately and uncompromisingly side with 
labour, it is still with labour that I shall side, — even 
against him. This I have never hidden. 

In any case, Bose does not seem to me (any more than 
Gandhi’s other political adversaries) in any hurry to discuss 
things with Gandhi or to try to convince him in advance. 
(This is not the first time that I have noticed that the anti- 
Gandhists want to ignore anything in Gandhi's recent pub- 
lished writings or conversations denoting any marked evo- 
lution in his social thought. It is a great pity that there is 
no man in India of my sort and with my moral credit. I 
should not at all have lost hope of drawing Gandhi into 
the social revolution — making allowances only for his non- 
violence, which he could not abandon. But although Bose 
himself has to recognize that the support of Gandhi would 
be an enormous success for them and their cause, I do not 
believe that at heart they very much want to have him at 
their side: they would always feel “overshadowed". This is 
probably what has happened with Jawaharlal Nehru : in 
his ideas he goes a long way, to the brink of Communism 
and maybe even beyond. But his filial respect for Gandhi 
makes him timid and uncertain in his action.) 

For himself, Bose too seems on the verge of Communism; 
but he will hear nothing of it. His antipathy is probably 
based on some personal reason concerning the present 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

representatives of the party in India; for he declares that he 
would certainly see no harm in the U.S.S.R. helping India 
to liberate herself, and his main reproach against the Soviets 
is that they seem to have lost interest today in the world 
Revolution to concentrate on their national politics. 

261. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

April 1935 -Europe has published in its 15 March issue 
an Address by Gandhi to the Bombay Congress in September 
1934, in which he puts a veto on Socialism. I am shocked 
by his attitude, and say so to my sister, who shares my 
regrets and writes to Pyarelal to tell him of them so that he 
can pass them on to Gandhi. The latter replies hastily on 
one of his tours round India organizing village industry. 1 

(Before receiving this letter I had drafted my note ap- 
pearing on page 74 of my book under press: Par la Revolu- 
tion, la Paix. It will be seen that I had fairly well gras- 
ped the profound reasons for Gandhi’s opposition to Social- 
ism, but that I see in it the roots of failure for his political 
action if he does not succeed in breaking away from it.) 

Extract from Par la Revolution, la Paix: 

.... Since that time the situation seems to have modified 
a little, and Gandhi seems to have approved of the workers’ strikes 
in Ahmedabad against their employer {1935). But he is still up 
against Socialism. Mot only does he not accept it; he refuses even 
to study it. (Address to the Bombay Congress, September 
1934). His desire for conciliation, whick is an essential part of 
his nature, keeps him wavering between parties at a time when the 
needs of action demand that he should take sides; for any hesita- 
tion to do so in the social conflict inevitably turns to the profit of the 
exploiters against the exploited. At heart, this inter-party attitude 

1 See Gandhi’s letter to Madeleine Rolland, 28 March 1935. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


of Gandhi springs from his profound faith in non-violence which 
itself is based on a uligious conception. However pure this may 
be, it hinders the freedom of his vision. The social experiment 
is always open, always in progress. It cannot be suboidinated to 
any sentimental preference or to any creed. If Gandhi does not 
succeed in breaking away from this hold of the past which' is 
delaying his march forward , he is bound to lose control of the 
great Indian movement, which is already beginning to go beyond 

262. Extract from Remain Rolland’s Diary 

April 79.95. -Subhas Chandra Bose sends me his written 
account of our recent conversation, which he means to 
publish. His account is fairly exact in outline; he simplifies 
and reduces my replies to almost nothing, to the profit of 
tire questioner, but this is a frequent snag in conversations 
at second hand between two participants who do not under- 
stand each other’s languages. The direct impression is bound 
to be blunted. 

In a letter of 27 April 1935, I correct my thought on 
two details: 

1. You say that in a split between Gandhi and “the 
younger generation” in India, I should be on the side of 
the young. That’s not quite the way I put it. I don’t 
see it as a decision between two generations or two poli- 
tical parties (which in any case are not exactly defined in 
your account; do the “younger generation” mean the Socia- 
lists, the Communists, the Independent Radicals, or what?) 
No ! the question, as I see it, is a higher one, concerning the 
cause of Labour. I say quite clearly: “If, by some unfortu- 
nate turn of events, Gandhi (or any other party) turns 
out to be in conflict with the cause of the workers and the 
labourers, and their necessary evolution towards a Socialist 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

organization, — if Gandhi (or any other party) loses interest 
and turns away from this, — I shall still go forward with the 
world of Labour and I shall share in their efforts and their 
struggles: for on this side is to be found true justice and 
the true and necessary law of social development. 

2. You speak of the ten (or fifteen) years of “mental 
agony” which I have spent questioning my “attitude towards 
non-violence” and my final decision on the subject. My 
inner conflict has been over a broader and more complex 
field. Since the end of the w r ar I have had to revise all my 
social ideas, indeed the whole of my ideology. The question 
of non-violence was only a fragment of this great de- 
bate — and I have not decided against non-violence. I have 
simply decided that non-violence could not be the central 
pivot of all social action. It is only one of the means, one 
of its suggested forms, and it is still under experimentation. 
What must be at the centre of our concerns is the esta- 
blishment of a more just and humane social order — and to 
be established, it must be imposed, for it must first be 
strenuously defended against all the violence of the old order, 
which is condemned once and for all; for it is based on 
social iniquity, capitalist exploitation, the military impe- 
rialism which flows from it and die oppression of three- 
quarters, if not nine-tenths of the earth. Against this odious 
state of affairs, this permanent state of Crime, it is our com- 
manding duty to dare to act with the most extreme 
vigour, and not to wait (for the permanent state of reigning 
Crime is certainly not waiting! If it is not destroyed, it will 
be the destruction of all human society.) Therefore we 
must act against it with all the arms of violence and non- 
violence which can strike at the target most promptly and 
most tellingly. I reject no weapon, provided it is in the hands 
of worthy, frank and disinterested combatants. My own 
task over the last few years has been to try to bring to- 
gether the revolutionary forces of non-violence and violence 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


in the common fight against social Crime, against the old 
order which enslaves and exploits humanity. This was my 
role in the ‘"World Congress of All Parties against War and 
Fascism” which took place in Amsterdam in August 1932, 
and in the permanent committees which sprung from this 
Congress. I still believe today that there is in non-violence a 
powerful latent revolutionary energy, which can and must 
be utilized (refusal of military service, general strikes in 
the munitions factories, chemical products, transport, etc.) 
Organized non-violence and disciplined revolutionary violence must 
or should be two allied armies , each keeping its own tactics , but both 
co-ordinating theii efforts in the common action against the com- 
mon enemy of humanity , which is war , Fascism, industrial and 
military capitalism, imperialism , social iniquity, etc. 

.... I need hardly add that I still keep my affectionate 
respect for Gandhi — even if in the future I have the sorrow 
of seeing him stand aside from the social action into which 
my duty calls me to enter — in which, in fact, I have been 
energetically operating for several years. . . . 

263. Madeleine Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru 

Villa Lionnette-Villeneuve 
( Vaud ) 
13 September 1935 

Dear Mr. Nehru, 

It was a great joy for all your friends and the friends 
of India here, to hear of your release (at last!) and of your 
safe arrival at Baden weiler. 

Ler me express to you the deep sympathy we felt 
for your moral sufferings all these months when you knew 
your wife was ill and was ruthlessly prevented from being 
constantly with her. I hope you have found her in better 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

health and I look forward to meeting you soon in Switzer- 
land. Your European friends have so much to ask you and 
to learn from you. 

Will you kindly give my best regards to your wife 
with my best wishes for her rapid recovery and my affec- 
tionate greetings to your daughter whose visit I missed 
last month through unlucky circumstances. 

Yours sincerely, 
Madeleine Rolland 

264. Extract from Romain Holland’s Diary 

22 October 7955,-Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter 
spend the afternoon with us. 

.... After Gandhi, he is the most considerable poli- 
tical (and moral) personality in India and, with Gandhi, 
the highest morally. Deeply imbued with Gandhi’s influence 
and love, he still has the strength to break away — partial- 
ly at least. He marks the next stage of India’s progress. 
Much more touched than Gandhi by social preoccupations 
and much better informed of the overall worldwide social 
movement, he has formed an advanced Socialist party in 
Congress of which he is the recognized leader, although his 
imprisonments have made it impossible for him to direct 
it effectively. In prison, his ideas seem to have develop- 
ed to an even more advanced stage, almost to the verge of 
Communism, from which the only thing that seriously 
separates him is a moral, not a social problem: that of 
violence or non-violence. But, he says, his meditations have 
already led him to the discovery that Gandhi’s non-violence 
is, in many of its essential features, a form of violence — or, 
more exactly, an extreme form of constraint exercised on 
those who practise it as well as those who undergo it. 
(Non-co-operation, strikes, etc.) Arid he has also come to 
recognize that the worst violence is not always physical 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


violence, and that the kind which is exercised morally can 
even at times be more equal. There is thus no insurmoun- 
table barrier between violence and non-violence; and the 
first cannot be eliminated a prion from the field of action. 
It is more appropriate to measure the conditions in which it 
should operate. This Gandhi does not want to do — at least 
on the intellectual level; for on the level of action, as Nehru 
goes on to say, he is different. 

Nehru has known and loved Gandhi for fifteen years 
(or thereabouts) and, he says, he has not yet got to know 
him well. Gandhi has done and will always do things 
which will disconcert his friends; there is something un- 
predictable about him, and on the social question no one 
can succeed in making him take a clear stance. I say that 
no doubt there is a permanent conflict within him between 
the traditional and the rational parts of his nature. His 
reason will show him what is just and necessary, but his 
attachment to Hindu tradition will restrict him or lead 
him backwards. Nehru says that in his opinion the con- 
flict is between the religious side of his nature and the man 
of action. On the field of action it will always be possible 
(as Nehru has always found) to come to terms with him. 
On the field of action, Gandhi makes few mistakes; he will 
pronounce decisively and he will go much further forward 
than he does when at rest, and in intellectual discussion. In 
the latter field, no one ever gains anything; Gandhi has 
decided where he stands and he changes nothing; he is (or 
seems to be) indifferent to any arguments. But at the pre- 
cise moment when action is needed, Gandhi acts, and in 
the right way. “But,” Marie objects, “has Gandhi not 
often halted the action once it has started?” Nehru replies: 
“He stops only when in any case the action would have 
had to stop soon afterwards.” He has the instinct for it. 
But while at rest he is often misunderstood. It is not al- 
ways possible to explain the compromising friendships which 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

he tolerates, and who use his name for reactionary purposes. 
I say: “He cannot make up his mind to admit of class 
warfare. He never stops wanting to believe in the good 
faith of his adversaries even when they have shown their 
bad faith three or four times over. And he refuses to look 
beyond India to the struggle being pursued all over tire 
world; he does it out of a sort of stubborn modesty.” Nehru 
assents; but he tells me that in the last year or two Gandhi 
has set himself to read Marx, Engels, etc. — -not that it seems 
to have changed him at all. (But one never knows. Gandhi 
is the sort of person in whom long inner evolutions are 
carried out in silence.) In any case, Nehru refuses to pass 
judgment on his present state of mind, for he has not had 
the chance to see him for several years — prison walls separate 
them (except for a few days after Gandhi’s return from 
Europe and before they were both imprisoned). Now r with 
Gandhi, direct contact is necessary before one can judge. I 
recall that for a year I have been waiting in vain for a 
letter which Gandhi promised me in reply to my questions 
about Socialism. Nehru says that, although Gandhi is op- 
posed to Socialism, he nevertheless helped in the constitu- 
tion 6f the Socialist party in Congress by encouraging his 
friends not to oppose it. Although he keeps his own firm 
opinions, he wants Socialism to be able to express itself 
and make its own experiments. 

Nehru insists a great deal on the enormous power of 
public opinion which Gandhi has at his disposal. He says 
that it is absurd to deny it or to claim that it has dimi- 
nished; at the most it has declined among the intellectuals, 
but in the masses it remains immense; particularly the pea- 
sant masses — and that makes three quarters of the coun- 
try. Nothing serious can be done without him. “But has he 
not now retired from politics?” No, says Nehru, this is merely 
an appearance. Everyone that counts in India still takes 
advice from him. His present retirement reproduces almost 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


exactly his retirement abound 1923 (?) when he came out 
of prison. He is recollecting himself and observing, waiting 
for the horn' for action; meanwhile he is busying himself 
with his organization of village labour and the fight against 
unto uch ability—- without wanting to see that this is an ac- 
cessory task, and that untouchability will collapse oi itself 
when Socialism has suppressed all classes ''But 1 think that 
is exactly why Gandhi does not want it: the suppression of 
classes subconsciously shocks his traditionalist sentiments.) 

Nehru aims at returning to India in February 1936, on 
the eve of the opening of the new Congress. It is probable 
(he does not say so, but I know) that he will be its Presi- 
dent. And he has a deeply rooted hope that when tire 
hour for action strikes, Gandhi will be back at their side 
or at their head. 

265. Madeleine Holland to Jawabarlal Nehru 

Villa Lionnette — Vilbueuve 
12 January 19^6 

Dear Mr. Nehru, 

For some time now I have not been getting any direct 
news of Gandhiji, but I read in the Harijan of December 
and this very day in a Lausanne newspaper that he was 
seriously ill from overstrain and arterial hypertension. I 
shall be very grateful to you for letting me know the 
latest details you may have had from India. 

In addition, I am taking the liberty of bringing to your 
attention the deplorable campaign conducted in certain 
Socialist and Communist circles of Europe about the book 
written by Saumyendranath Tagore on Gandhi — -just last 
week a socialist journal of Geneva, the Dioit des Peuples, 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

devoted an article to this book and emphasised the accusa- 
tions made against Gan dhiji: sold to the capitalists, traitor 
to the people, etc. etc. And this type of attack is read and 
accepted by thousands of honest Westerners who blindly 
believe the declarations of their newspapers. 

Not to accept all the views of Gandhi, to fight against 
them as inadequate or dangerous — every sincere man has 
the right to that. But these accusations, based on erroneous 
data, on mutilated quotations, gratuitous and tendentious 
assertions, are revolting, and coming from an Indian 
reflect back on the whole of India. 

In the name of true friends of India, in the name of 
historical truth — I shall not say, on behalf of my friendship 
for Gandhiji, for he would be the first man to declare that 
truth should never be sacrificed for the sake of friendship — I 
now beg you to refute it only in a few lines — the main attacks 
contained in that book, which rest on a flagrant misunder- 
standing of the very character of Gandhi. 

Forgive me, dear Mr. Nehru. I know that you must 
have many tasks to perform for your country. But is it 
not one of them to prevent fanatics from sullying the repu- 
tation of a man who has made India conscious of her inner 
force and who has dedicated his whole life to serving her 
according to his faith and to supporting the cause of the 
oppressed with his whole apostle’s heart? 

I am of course at your disposal to translate at once into 
French any article on the subject that you may be able 
to send and to try to get it published, with the help of 
my brother, in French language journals or reviews. 

I hope that Madame Nehru’s health continues to im- 
prove and that we will perhaps see you this spring in 
Switzerland. Please give her my best wishes, my friendly 
greetings to your daughter, and believe me. 

Very cordially yours, 
Madeleine Rolland 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


266. Madeleine Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru 

Villencuve f Vaud ) 
17 February 1936 

Dear Mr. Nehru, 

My brother thanks you deeply for the good wishes 
you sent him on his birthday, and is himself also very sorry 
that it is not possible for us to meet you again before your 
departure. But we understand only too well that you 
cannot devote to our family these few days that remain 
before it! 

I am glad to know that Madame Nehru is better. I 
hope the doctor will allow me to see her next month. In 
addition, I shall telephone to the clinic beforehand to find 
out if and when she can receive me. 

I am sending you the issue of Sentinelle in which your 
article on Gandhi appeared. Vendredi having already had 
one from you was not able to publish it, but I sent it to 
Europe. A change in the management of the review is the 
reason why I have r.ot yet received any reply, but I have 
asked Mr. Raja Rao, who is coming there, to attend to 
the matter. 

I had requested Miss Indira to convey to you all our 
congratulations on your new nomination as President of 
the Congress. We rejoice at this for India’s sake. All our 
good wishes go with you. 

Sincerely yours, 
Madeleine Rolland 

Will you please convey our good wishes to all our friends 
there ? 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

267. Romain Rolland to Jawaharlal Nehru 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
Tuesday, 25 Februaiy 1936 

De?r Friend, 

My ill-health has prevented me from coming to greet 
you before your departure. I wanted at least to send you 
while we were still neighbours our affectionate good wishes 
to you, your wife and your dear country. 

I am thinking of the emotion, for you, of this separa- 
tion. May the coming spring improve the health of 
Madame J. Nehru and may you return with a calmer spirit 
to the great fight which awaits you over there. 

I hope that under your guidance India, like our West, 
will know how to form a “Popular Front” to fight against 
all obstacles to her independence and her social progress. 

It is entrusted to me to ask you as well as Gandhi 
to join a Universal Assembly for Peace which we are con- 
vening towards the end of th is summer, probably in Septem- 
ber at Geneva. It will be a vast and powerful Congress, a 
sort of mobilisation of all the forces in the world for peace. 
A number of great national and international organiza- 
tions and personalities from France, England, United 
States, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Belgium, Holland and many 
other countries have already joined (in England Lord 
Robert Cecil, Major Attlee, Norman Angell, Philip Noel- 
Baker, Alexander and Professor Laski; in France Herriot, 
Pierre Cot, Jouhaux, Gadrin, Racamond, Professor Lange- 
vin, etc.-; in Czechoslovakia Benes, Hodza; in Spain Azana, 
Alvarez delVago, etc.; in Belgium Louis de Brouckere, Henri 
Lafontaine, etc.). It will be a question of organizing. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


simultaneously on a national and international level, resistance 
against the catastrophic menace of a universal conflagra- 
tion. Would you please talk about this to our friends in 
India, while conveying to them my cordial salutations? 
Their reply as well as yours can be sent either to me or 
to the head-office of the “World Committee for the Struggle 
against War and Fascism”, of which I was made Hono- 
rary President (237 rue Lafayette, Paris X). 

I wish it were possible for us to remain in regular com- 
munication with you and our Indian friends. It is impoi- 
tant that Western opinion is kept constantly informed of 
social and political developments in India, about which 
too many people are interested in preserving silence or 
spreading false news. 

I clasp your hands wholeheartedly. Look after \ ourself, 
my dear friend, be happy, and may your cause, which is 
that of the best India, triumph. 

Yours sincerely, 
Roma in Rolland 

Once again please give my affection to Gandhi and his 
friends who were our guests at Villeneuve, to Mira, to 
Pyarelal and to Mahadev Desai. 

I read with great interest your article which appeared 
in Vendredi with an introduction by Madame Andree Viol- 
lis. The other article you sent to my sister will come out 
in the March issue of the review Europe . 

268. Extract from Romain Rolland 5 s Diary 

February 193 6. -On 27 February, visited by Subhas 
Chandra Bose, the Indian political leader. . . . He is going 
to return to India for tire National Congress, opening early 
in April. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

.... Bose takes a pessimistic view of the present situa- 
tion in India. The majority in Congress, which Gandhi’s 
lieutenants seem to be dominating, is moving to the right; 
they seem to want to agree to enter into governmental 
councils and functions, and to try out the new Constitution. 
No doubt this is because of extreme weariness after years 
of unsuccessful struggles; and perhaps also the fear of 
Socialism. Gandhi has not yet pronounced himself, but he is 
not doing anything to stop it. Bose says it is false to think 
he has retired from politics; it is a mere feint, and in his 
retreat he remains the counsellor of all Indian politics. The 
great unknown is the attitude Nehru will take. 

269. Jawaharlal Nehru to Romain Rolland 

Hotel Suisse 


March 4th , 1936 

My dear Monsieur Rolland, 

I am very grateful to you for your message of sympathy. 
I appreciated deeply the letter you sent me a week ago. 
I intended writing to you more fully on the subject but 
under the circumstances you will, I am sure, forgive me 
if I do not do so. I shall however carry your letter with 
me to India and convey your message to my countrymen. If 
I may say so, I am entirely one with you in your general 
outlook as to what should be done. I hope sincerely that 
we may be able to move in that direction in India. But, as 
you are aware, we have to face great difficulties and I do 
not know how matters will shape themselves. But the 
thought of your good wishes and blessings will keep our 
courage up and cheer us in our dark days. 

I realize the importance of the great World Congress 
for Peace — the ‘Rassemblement Universel pour la Paix’ — 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


which will be held next September in Geneva. I very much 
hope that the Indian Congress will be able to take part in it. 

I shall convey your message of affection to Gandhi and 
other friends. 

Again thanking you and with my homage and affec- 
tionate regards to you and Madame and Mademoiselle 

I am, 

Yours very sincerely, 
Jawaharlal Nehru 

I am leaving for India day after tomorrow afternoon. 

270. Devdas Gandhi to Romain Rolland 

( The Hindustan Times, Delhi) 
Xovt-mOi.) 13, 1936 

Respected Sir, 

I have never troubled you with letters even after the 
very precious time we were privileged to have as your guests 
at Villeneuve on our way back from England in 1931. 

As you probably know, since my return to India I 
have been once to jail. After my release I have been con- 
nected with the leading daily of Upper-India, The Hindustan 
Times. This paper is run on independent lines and within, 
its obvious limitations it tries to serve the Indian cause to 
the best of its capacity. We are publishing a Special Num- 
ber consisting of about 60 pages on tire occasion of the 
forthcoming session of the Congress in the middle of Decem- 
ber. It will be, of course, brought out under my personal 
supervision. I would be sad to have missed a special arti- 
cle from you in this Number. I don’t mind what the sub- 
ject is. Perhaps you would like to write on the serious 
international situation which threatens the very existence of 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

the world, or it may be a short story. Whatever it is, I 
shall deem it a personal favour from you. 

The article, which 1 hope will not be less than 800 
words, should reach my hands not later than the 15th of 
December, and therefore I am afraid it must be sent to me 
by air-mail. 

Father is, I am glad to say, in excellent health, and 
will also be present at the Congress. 

If there is anything I can do for you here, I should be 
glad to act as your agent. 

With kindest regards to Madame Holland, your sister 
and your goodself, 

I remain, 
Yours sincerely, 
Devdas Gandhi 

P.S. I have the best arrangement to have French writings 
translated into English. D. 

271. Romain Rolland to Devdas Gandhi 

2 December 1936 

My dear Friend, 

You know how much I love and honour India; she 
must resume the great place of seniority which belongs to 
her in the world’s social and moral life. My fervent wish 
is that she may win back her national independence and 
achieve the social progress to which her huge people, so 
long sacrificed, has a right. Please pass on my warmest 
expression of this wish through your paper to Congress and 
to the Indian masses. 

Unfortunately I cannot write you an article at present. 
All our forces in Europe are absorbed by the tragic events 
in Spain and the threat of war weighing over the whole of 
the West — the whole of Europe. I am sending you a copy 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


of an Appeal which I am sending to every people in aid 
of the victims of the Madrid massacres. India should at 
least learn something from the spectacle of the follies and 
crimes under whose weight Europe is succumbing. She must 
become aware of the mortal danger in imperialist and 
racialist Fascisms, which carry the torch of war every- 
where and crush every liberty. India is not immune from 
their tortuous and rapacious politics, which aspire to no- 
thing less than complete world domination. Beware of the 
German-Italian-Japanese pact! Asia has suffered much 
under European imperialisms, but those of yesterday .still 
had to take account of certain legal principles written into 
their democratic nations. Those of tomorrow, founded by 
Fascist movements, will trample underfoot the last traces 
of humanity. We in France, over the last two years, have 
given up our party political quarrels (Socialists, Communists, 
radical republicans, Catholic democrats, etc.) to form a 
Popular Front alliance against Fascism. I call upon you to 
do the same in India. All over the world, liberty and 
progress — our great hopes, our reasons for living — are in 
danger ! 

Romain Rolland 

272. Devdas Gandhi to Remain Rolland 

'The Hindustan Times, Delhi ) 
Januaij 2, 1937 

Respected Sir, 

I am full of gratitude for the affectionate response you 
have made to my request for a contribution for the Special 
Congress Number of my paper — The Hindustan Timts. I have 
already posted a marked copy to your address. I shall very 
highly prize any remarks that you may care to make in 
connection with the Special Number. I have also sent you 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

a marked copy of one of my daily issues which will give 
some idea of the trend of feeling in India as regards the 
situation in Spain. 

Whenever there is anything to be done here in India, 
need I say that my humble services are always at your dis- 

With kindest regards, 

Yours sincerely, 
Devdas Gandhi 

273. Gandhi to Marie Romain Rolland 

Segaoa- Wardha 
18 February 1937 

Dear Sister, 

My son sent me your letter to him in which you 
have asked for my autograph for the purpose of selling it 
in aid of the stricken women and children of Spain. While 
that unhappy people has my wholehearted sympathy I am 
not sending you my autograph. I am not convinced of the 
right of employing such means for obtaining money for a 
good cause. People should subscribe willingly for such with- 
out expecting any return . 1 

My affection to you both. 

Yours sincerely, 
M. K. Gandhi 

1 Madame Romain Rolland had had the idea of asking a large 
number of personalities for manuscripts to be sold in aid of Spanish 
refugees from Franco. ( Editor's note) 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


274. Marie Remain Rolland to Jawaliarlal Nehru 

Villa Olga , Villentuve ( Vaud ) 


24 March 1937 

Dear Jawaharlal Nehru, 

Thank you for your kind letter and excuse me to answer 
too late. 

Yes, I begged you to send an autograph from v out hand (one 
or two pages) for a sale which is organized in Paris for 
aid to Spanish children and women. If you can send 
two autographs, the second of them will be sold in New 
York, where a friend of us organized a' similar sale. 

Please send it the sooner you can: the sale in Paris 
must be at the end of April. 

Thank you very much for the “Statement” for Spain. 
We have sent it to our friends and I think it will be re- 
impressed in Claris. 

Rolland sends you his best regards and his hopes in 
your success in your work. 

And I pray you to believe in my sympathy for you 
and your great people. 

Marie R. Rolland 

Please send us your autographs per registered post: 
Switzerland, notwithstanding her “democratic” regime, acts 
now' quite as a fascist government: let' ms are opened and 
sometimes do not reach us. Newspapers also. Some of our 
friends go away in France, and England, where there is more 
liberty. And we shall also search another home. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

(There are special apparatuses, that are branched on 
telephones, to spy conversations! But naturally, all people 
know it.) 

275. Jawaharlal Nehru to Romain Holland 

Anand Bhawan , Allahabad 
April 17, 1937 

My dear Friend, 

I give these few lines to introduce to you my young 
friend and colleague Mahmud uz Zafar Khan who is going 
to Europe for a few months. I hope he will have the privi- 
lege of meeting you during his stay there. 

I have been unfortunately unwell for the last three 
weeks and have been unable to respond to Madame 
Holland's suggestion to send an autograph message for Spain. 
I hope to do so soon. 

With all good wishes and affectionate regards to you 
and Madame Rolland. We follow with the liveliest inte- 
rest the great work you are doing. 


Jawaharlal Nehru 

Monsieur Romain Rolland 

Villa Olga 



Letters, Diary Extracts 


276. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

28 July 1937 (Nevers) .-The day before we leave Never s, 
Amyanath Bose, a young nephew of the Indian Bengali 
leader Subhas Bose, comes from Paris to have supper with 

.... He is not a supporter of Gandhi, whose moral 
and political supremacy in India today he recognizes (he 
says that Nehru, theoretically more advanced, will in prac- 
tice never break away from obedience to his master). 

277. Extract from Romain Rolland’s Diary 

15 October 2P57.— Visited by Jawaharlal Nehru’s 
secretary, Mahmud uz Zafar Khan, with his pretty wife 
Dr. Rashid Jehan, bearing a letter of introduction from 
Nehru. Both are Muslims, the wife from Kashmir and 
he from the Northern provinces. ... It is most curious, 
and rather worrying, that these elite Indians who are, in 
a sense, Nehru’s right arm, give evidence of a sharp dis- 
taste for Gandhi. Mahmud at least is prudent, and 
watches his words. But his wife speaks without restraint, 
and he does nothing to correct her. ... I cannot believe 
that Nehru, so respectful and affectionate towards Gandhi, 
would approve of what they say, but he cannot be un- 
aware of their opinions, and if he allows them to be pre- 
sent at his side, it must mean that they express in dis- 
respectful form something fundamental to his thought. In 
addition there is in the Mahmuds a religious, maybe 
a racial animosity. They present Gandhi as being hos- 
tile at heart to the Mohammedans, putting them in 


Romain RoIIand and Gandhi : Correspondence 

disadvantageous positions, secretly opposing their legitimate 
claims (as in the debate about a single national language, 
in which he did not want to take any account of Urdu). 
They present him as a Hindu bigot, anchored in his back- 
ward piety, blessing God for the earthquakes which are 
due to the sins of the Hindus, as a petit bourgeois allied 
with the upper Hindu bourgeoisie and applying himself to 
maintaining their pact of alliance with England, reading 
nothing, not even the new" Constitution — (it was Nehru 
who made him admit to it, and gave him a copy to read). 
They claim that all Muslim India is against him, and 
that Abdul Ghaffar Khan is an exception. They have to 
admit that the immense Hindu masses are with him; 
Mahmud says with a smile: “Mr. Gandhi is the typical 
Hindu. Nehru says: — If I can convince Mr. Gandhi , then 
I know that I can convince the people of India. If not, all my 
efforts would be in vain. He is the touchstone 

278. Extract from Remain RoIIand. 5 s Diary 

December 1937- Gandhi gravely ill in Calcutta (where 
he wore himself out trying to obtain the liberation of the 
political prisoners). Tagore, himself scarcely out of bed 
after a serious illness, comes to see him, and there is a 
most touching scene. Tagore arrives, still very weak, and 
unable to climb the stairs. At the doorway he learns that 
Gandhi is better; he is pleased and, not wanting to dis- 
turb him, offers to leave without seeing him. He is told 
that Gandhi would like to see him and that, but for 
his state of health, he himself would have gone to Santi- 
niketan. Tagore allows himself to be carried in an arm- 
chair; he finds Gandhi at prayer; he remains seated during 
the prayer, but does not want to disturb the prayer by speaking 
to him, and he leaves praying for him and blessing him. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


279. Gandhi to Madeleine Holland 

30 December 1937 

My dear Madeleine, 

I was glad to have your letter. I am getting on as 
well as may be. And whatever I do and do not do, I 
suppose I shall live on for a while, if God wants more 
work from me. His work goes on, we come in only when 
md to the extent He wants us. Yes, I remember those 
lappy hours with you and the Sage. I wish they could 
be repeated. 

I hope all of you are keeping well in spite of the 
iwful political atmosphere surrounding you. These rapid 
communications have so reduced this tiny globe that what 
lappens in one part of it reverberates throughout the 
ength and breadth of it. 

My love to you both, 


280. Extract from Romaim Roll and’ s Diary 

February 1939 - The Indian philosopher, S. Radhakrishnan, 
it present teaching in Oxford, has asked me to co-operate 
n a book of tributes which he is collecting to offer to 
jandhi on his birthday. I write this text for him (February 
939) : 

in Expression of Gratitude to Gandhi from a Man of the West 
Gandhi, for India, is not only a hero of their national 
listory, whose memory will pass as a legend into the age- 
id epic. He has not only been the spirit cf life and 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

action who has breathed into the people of India the 
proud consciousness of their unity, their power and their 
will to independence. For all the peoples of the West 
he has renewed the message of Christ which had been for- 
gotten or betrayed. He has inscribed his name among the 
sages and saints of humanity; and the radiance of his fea- 
tures has found its way into every region of the earth. 

He appeared in the eyes of Europe at an hour when 
such an example seemed almost miraculous. Europe had 
scarcely emerged from four years of savage warfare, whose 
ravages, ruins and rancours were living on and breeding the 
germs of new’ wars yet more implacable. In addition there 
was the overwhelming effect of the revolutions, with their 
inevitable train of social hatred, gnawing at the hearts of 
the nations. Europe was weighed down under a heavy 
night, great with misery and despair, without a single streak 
of light. The appearance of Gandhi, this frail, naked 
little man, repudiating all violence, armed only with his 
reason and his love, whose humble and stubborn gentleness 
had recently won his first victories against blind force, seem- 
ed a paradoxical challenge flung in the face of politics 
and the traditionally accepted and uncontested wisdom of 
the West. But it was at the same time a glimmer of 
salvation opening in the midst of despair. We could hardly 
believe it, and we needed a long time to convince our- 
selves of the reality of such a prodigy. Who knows this 
better than I, one of the first in the West to discover and 
spread the Word of the Mahatma? . . . But as the cer- 
tainty of the existence and the steady, patient and pro- 
gressive labours of the spiritual master of India gradually 
imposed itself, a torrent of gratitude and faith flowed to- 
wards him from the West. For many, he was like a second 
coming of Christ. For others, for independent thinkers 
worried by the uncontrolled advance of a Western civili- 
zation no longer directed by any moral principle, in which 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


even its prodigious genius of discovery and invention had 
deviated monstrously in the direction of its own ruin, 
Gandhi was a new incarnation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau 
and Tolstoy, denouncing the illusions and crimes of civili- 
zation and preaching to men the return to nature, to 
the simple life, to health. Governments pretended to ig- 
nore or to scorn him. But the people sensed in him their 
best friend and their brother. Here in Switzerland I ha\e 
seen the pious love he inspired among the humble pea- 
sants of countryside and mountain. 

But if his Word of wisdom and love, like that of the 
Master of the Sermon on the Mount, has touched the hearts 
of thousands of good people, it did not fall to them — any 
more than it was granted to the Master of ^Nazareth — to 
change the course of a world which has devoted itself to 
war and destruction. In order to be applied in politics, 
the doctrine of non-violence needs a moral climate very 
different from that which prevails in Europe today: it de- 
mands a total self-sacrifice, immense and unanimous, which 
has no chance of present success in face of the growing 
ferocity of the new regimes of totalitarian dictatorship 
which have established themselves in the world and proved 
themselves pitilessly in the blood of millions of men. The 
radiance of such sacrifices cannot hope to lead to victory 
until after a very long period of trials for the peoples of 
the world, and the peoples cannot have the heroism neces- 
sary to bear them unless they feel themselves supported 
and exalted by a faith like that of Gandhi. This faith in 
God is lacking in the majority of our men of the West, 
people as much as elite. And the new faiths (national- 
ist and revolutionary) generate violence. The most urgent 
tiling for the people of the West to do is to defend, by 
every possible means, their liberties, their independence 
and even their lives which are threatened by the voracious 
imperialism of the Fascist and racialist states in coalition. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Their political abdication would inevitably lead to the 
enslavement of humanity, perhaps for centuries. In these 
circumstances, we cannot recommend or practise Gandhi’s 
doctrine, however much we respect it. 

It seems to us that it is called upon to play in the 
world the role of the great monasteries of the Christian 
Middle Ages, in which was preserved, as on an islet in 
the middle of a stormy ocean, the purest treasure of moral 
civilization, the spirit of peace and love, the serenity of 
the mind. A glorious and sacred role! May the spirit of 
Gandhi, as of old that of the great founders of the Christian 
orders, St. Bruno, St. Bernard and St. Francis, maintain, 
amidst the furious torments of the age of crisis and transfor- 
mation through which mankind is passing, the Civitas Dei, 
the love of humanity and of harmony! 

For the rest of us, intellectuals, scientists, writers and 
artists, we who also work, as much as our feeble forces will 
allow, to prepare for the spirit this City of all men in 
which reigns the peace of God, we who are the third order 
(in the language of the Church) and who belong to the 
Pan-Humanist brotherhood,' — we send our fervent tribute 
of love and veneration to Gandhi our master and bro- 
ther, who in his heart and in his action realizes our ideal 
of the humanity to come. 

281. Extract from Romain Rolland 9 s Diary 

March 1939.-. ... a wild sense of disproportion 
among the frenzied pacifists. FMicien Challaye launches 
an attack on Gandhi in La Patrie Humaine, the latter having 
poured scorn on the Munich agreements. 

“Europe,” Gandhi wrote, “has sold her soul for the 
sake of a seven-day earthly existence. The peace Europe 
gained at Munich is a triumph of violence; it is also a 
defeat. If England and France were sure of victory, they 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


would certainly have fulfilled their duty of saving Czecho- 
slovakia . . . but they quailed before the combined 
violence of Germany and Italy. I have the hardihood to 
say that if the Czechs had known the use of non-violence 
as a weapon for the defence of national honour, they would 
have faced the whole might of Germany with that of Italy 
thrown in. They would have spared England and France 
the humiliation of suing' for a peace which was not peace; 
and to save their honour, they would have died to a 
man. . . .” 

Challaye, in a fury, retorts: 

“ . . . . What a peculiar argument! What ignorance it 
reveals! What strange moral judgments it implies! Gan- 
dhi is unaware of the most elementary facts of the Cze- 
choslovak problem. . . . Gandhi does not know that the 
reasonable Czechs are delighted today that they form a 
united people, instead of dominating a divided state, nor 
does he know that the Slovaks and the Ukrainians today 
feel more cordially associated with the Czechs now that 
they are freed of the age-old tyranny. Gandhi does not 
notice that the destruction of the Czechoslovak bastion 
henceforth renders impossible any war that the U.S.S.R. 
or France may wish to declare against Germany. . . 

282. Extract from Romain Rolland s s Le Voyage Interieur 

8 September 1940-1 must not delude myself. And I 
did not delude myself. Even at times when I allowed my- 
self to become drunk with mirages created by the mind, 
never in the whole long course of my Voyage did my mind 
cease to be sensitive to poignant reminders of present 

It was not only my cosmic dreams which I sought 
to nourish at the springs of clairvoyant India; I also bore 


Remain RoIIand and Gandhi : Correspondence 

thither my European concerns, the spectre of war, which had 
already ravaged the fields of the West and was still prow- 
ling round the charnel-house. I knew only too well that 
the Furies were still lurking behind the tombstones from 
which the red smoke of blood was still rising. And I was 
anxious to erect in their path, as at the conclusion of 
Aeschylus’ trilogy, a barrier built of sovereign reason which 
might bring the conflict to an end. This could hardly be 
expected of the victorious imperialisms of the West, intent 
on enjoying the spoils and gorged to stupefaction, who 
were neglecting even the most elementary precautions to 
keep what they held. I thought I had found the answer 
in the revelation brought to me in 1922 by Gandhi, the 
little Indian St. Francis. Did he bear, in the folds of his 
homespun robe, in his Ahimsa, the heroic Non-violence 
which resists and does not flee, the key to our liberation 
from future massacres? I so needed to believe it that 
for several years I did believe it passionately, and I gene- 
rously worked to spread this faith. I was certain — and I 
retract nothing — that in this alone could be found the salva- 
tion of our world laden with crimes, past, present and 

But to make this possible the world had to will it, and 
first of all it had to find the strength for it; for such a 
faith demanded the consenting self-sacrifice of a people of 
heroes, and the post-war climate was not of a kind to en- 
courage such a breed in the West. . . . With what anxiety 
did I follow the bold and patient Indian experiment! 

I must admit, alas, that although my admiration, my 
respect and my love for Gandhi never ceased to grow, I 
soon formed all sorts of reservations about the effectiveness 
of his tactics, particularly in the West. He himself was too 
frank not to show his own doubts — not of the ultimate 
divine truth of his law of Ahimsa, but of its practical effects 
in the modern world. Too honest and too prudent to 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


assert what he did not know, he limited his activities to India, 
which he knew well, and did not permit himself to give 
advice to the West. The West was obliged to repeat in its 
own way the experiment made by Gandhi and his people 
of India. We were thus alone in face of the terrible prob- 
lems assailing us at that moment. 

283. Extract from Romain Roll and’ s Diary 

November 1943 .— The Indians in Paris invite me to parti- 
cipate in a “Centre for Free India”, associated with the 
name of Subhas Chandra Bose. . . . They brandish a sup- 
posed message from Gandhi (on the eve of his arrest) re- 
pudiating his work of non-violence and calling them to 

They know very well that I cannot reply, and that my 
own nation is captive. But their sole concern is with their 
own, and for its liberation all means are acceptable — even 
the imprisonment of others! 

284. Sarojitu Naidu’s Tribute to Romain Rolland 1 

Romain Rolland was one of the small band of great 
dreamers in whom the war wrought an animate and poig- 
nant anguish of the spirit. Every hour of the world war 
seemed to him a desecration of his noble and exalted ideal 
of world brotherhood and peace. 

1 Interview to the ‘United Press’, January 3, 1945 on the death of 
Romain Rolland on December 30, 1944 in Switzerland. 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

285. Gandhi’s Statement on Remain Holland’s Death 

War dim, 
10 January 1945 

Having been once bitten, I am too shy to believe in 
Romain Rolland’s reported death . 1 But it seems that this 
report is true. And yet for me as for many millions, 
Romain Rolland is not dead. He truly lives through 
his famous writings and perhaps more so through his many 
and nameless deeds. He lived for truth and non-violence 
as he saw and believed them from time to time. He res- 
ponded to all sufferings. He revolted against the wanton 
human butchery called ‘War 5 . 

286. Gandhi’s Last Reference to Romain Rolland 2 

New Delhi 
13 January 1948 

Who am I to write a foreword for the autobiography 
of a celebrity like Sage Romain Rolland, who, alas, is no 
more among us? I consider myself unfit for the task. 
What is more, I have not even had a moment to read the 

M. K. Gandhi 

1 On an earlier occasion the report of Romain Rolland’s death had 
proved false. 

2 Reply to a Bombay publisher planning to bring out Romain 
Rolland s Voyage InteTieuT , who had asked him for an introduction to 
this work. 

Letters, Diary Extracts 


287. Jawaharlal Nehru to Marie Remain Holland 

30 September 1956 

Dear Madame, 

I must ask your forgiveness for the great delay in 
answering your letter of July 17th, which was given to me 
I think in Paris when I was there last. On my return to 
India, your letter was misplaced and I was occupied with 
other matters. Hence the delay. 

I am greatly interested to know you will be publish- 
ing a “Cahier Gandhi-Romain Rolland”. I would greatly 
like to see this. 

You ask me to write a brief introduction to this book. 
I feci rather hesitant to do so. It is always difficult to 
write about a great man. To write about two such great 
men becomes doubly difficult. 

If, however, you wish me to send you a few lines, 
I shall try to do so. But I should like to see, if pos- 
sible, what you are publishing in this volume. 

With all good wishes and regards. 

Sincerely yours, 
Jawaharlal Nehru 


Extracts from letters referring to Gandhi , 
sent by Romain Rolland 
to various Foreign Correspondents 

Remain Roll and to Foreign Correspondents 


283. Romain Rolland to Henri Barbusse (France) 

Paris , 2 February 1922 

.... But there is another arm, much more powerful 
and within everyone’s reach, high or low; an arm which 
has proved its effectiveness among other races, and it’s sur- 
prising that it’s never mentioned in France; the arm used 
by thousands of Conscientious Objectors among the Anglo- 
Saxon nations, and by which Mahatma Gandhi is at pre- 
sent undermining the dominance of the British Empire 
in India . 1 I refer to non-acceptance (and I’m not saying 
non-resistance), for make no mistake about it, this is the 
supreme resistance. To refuse consent and co-operation 
to the criminal State is the most heroic act open to a man 
of our time; it demands of him — -just him, an individual, 
alone in face of tire State colossus which can coldly throttle 
him behind closed doors — an energy and spirit of sacrifice 
incomparably greater than that of confronting death when 
your breath and the dying sweat on your brow are mingled 
with those of the throng. Such moral force is possible 
only if one kindles in the heart of man — each man indi- 
vidually — the fire of conscience, the quasi-mystic sense of 
the divinity which is in every mind and which, at the 
decisive hours of history, has raised the greatest races to 
the stars. . . . 

1 Read Mahatma Gandhi: Swaraj in One Tear: Indian Home Rule 
(R. R.’s note) 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

289. Romain Rolland to Charles Vildrac (France) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
Wednesday, 27 December 1922 

.... I am preparing a study of Gandhi, having read 
with my sister pretty well all the speeches and articles which 
have been published (700 or 800 pages). But it was only 
by chance that I was able to receive the volume from 
Madras in proof state; since then it’s been impossible to 
correspond with the publisher; the lines have been cut. 
Did you know that at present there are 30,000 Indians from 
the elite of the nation in English prisons? It’s a formi- 
dable movement, and England will never get the best of 
it, as it springs from the depths of the religious soul of 
India. Gandhi wouldn’t be less great without the 
support of these age-old forces, but it is through them that 
this little Asian Tolstoy is able to threaten an empire 
greater than that of the Tsars. . . . 

290. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

28 December 1922 

.... I have just finished reading, with Madeleine, 
Gandhi’s 700 or 800 pages, and I am now going to 
write, in my own time, an Essay on this Hindu Tolstoy 
for an international review which is at last to be founded 
in Paris. . . . 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


291. Ro main Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

25 January 1923 

.... The only thing I really want to write at pre- 
sent is my study on Gandhi. It’s a last sacrament. I 
shall give it first to the review Europe , then as an introduction 
to the European editions of Gandhi’s works; I should even 
like to develop it a bit and make a little volume for my 
collection of “Vies des Homines Illustres”. But would 
Hachette be interested? . .. 

292. Romain Rolland to Paul Colin (Belgium) 1 


Thursday, 25 January 1923 

.... I want my study on Gandhi to be the first in the 
review on the subject of Asia. I shall submit it to you 
before the end of February, and I should like it to appear in 
the April number. (I’m assuming that the review appears 
at the beginning of the month; if not, it might still be in 
time for a number appearing on 15 March.) Perhaps 
you’ll have to publish the study in two parts; it’s an ex- 
tensive subject and it’s never been treated really compe- 
tently in Europe. 

I have got a Swiss publisher I’m friendly with to ac- 
quire all publishing rights of Gandhi’s works in all the 
European languages from his Hindu counterpart. I’ve 
prepared a selection from them, with my sister (about 400 

1 Director of the review Europe 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

pages out of the 1,200 of the Madras edition) and I shall 
preface this selection with my study after it’s appeared in 
Europe. I may even bring it out again separately (develop- 
ing it a bit) in a little volume in my collection of “Vies 
des Hommes Illustres”. . . . 

293. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) 

Saturday, 27 January 1923 

As it happens, I am at present writing a fairly long 
study on Gandhi, and I shall publish it in one of the first 
numbers of the review Europe. 

This study will also serve as an introduction to the 
French and German editions of Gandhi’s works, whose 
rights I have had acquired by a friendly publisher in the 
German part of Switzerland. My sister and I have 
made a selection from Gandhi’s complete works, as they 
can’t all be published; no European reader would have the 
patience to plough through the 1,200 closely-packed pages 
of the Madras edition, so we have chosen the 400 most es- 
sential pages. The two translations, into French and Ger- 
man, are being done now, and I think the volumes will be 
able to appear in the course of the summer. 

It’s a magnificent movement, but so rich and complex 
that I can’t possibly sum it up for you in a few lines, and 
at present nothing exact, let alone adequate, has yet ap- 
peared on the subject in Europe. So I must ask you to 
wait until my study is in print which, I hope, will not be 
too long. If you’re in too much of a hurry, though, I 
could reply briefly to a set of precise questions. 

The most surprising thing is not that tire Gandhian 
movement in India is so little known, but that no one knows 
Gandhi heroically led the same movement in South Africa 
from 1895 to 1913, and won. Old Europe has gone deaf; 

Remain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


I’m no longer speaking for her, as I know she doesn’t 
hear me. I still am speaking, though, but for whom? 
For the spirits of the air. . . . 

294. Romain Rolland to Paul Colin (Belgium) 

Monday , 5 Febtvary 1923 

.... I shall have finished my study on Gandhi by 
Thursday and shall start the fair copy at once. It will pro- 
bably run to about fifty pages, hence two successive arti- 
cles in the review. The first, appearing on 15 March, will 
coincide with the anniversary of Gandhi’s imprisonment 
(18 March 1922) which will be celebrated all over India by 
a general “Hartal” (religious strike). Perhaps when you 
announce the number you could draw attention to this 

Tell me where I should send you the copy before the 
24th; in Brussels, or at Rieder’s? . . . 

295. Romain Rolland to Maurice Delamain (France) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
Wednesday , 7 February 1923 

.... A Swiss publisher among my friends, Mr. Emil 
Roniger, of Rheinfelden,' director of the Rotapfel Verlag 
in Zurich, has on my advice acquired the European pub- 
lishing rights (except in English) from Gandhi’s Indian 
publisher. He will do the German language edition him- 
self, but I think for the French edition he means to make 
an arrangement with a French or Swiss French publisher. 
I thought I would mention it to you first; would you bs 
interested in such a work? The English original has 
1,100 or 1,200 pages; it’s being reduced to 350 or 400 for 


Romaixn Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

the European editions, and I should attach my essay as 
an introduction. This is only my own judgment, but it 
seems to me an admirable book. Gandhi’s personality is 
of unequalled grandeur in the world today, a unique har- 
mony of moral and active genius. His campaigns in South 
Africa and India form a social experiment of striking 
novelty whose repercussions go far beyond the foreseeable. 

.... I may add that I have no financial interest in 
this question of publishing Gandhi’s works. I did the 
classification and shall give my introduction to the volume 

I should reserve my rights only for a little volume. I 
might think of bringing out later based on my essay on 
Gandhi, published separately as a heroic biography (as I 
shall explain below). . . . 

I have become so attached to the man in the course 
of studying him that after the edition of Gandhi’s works 
has appeared (leaving a few months in between if necessary) 
I should like to bring out my introductory essay again as a 
little volume, expanding it a bit. It would make a short 
heroic biography, in the style of my Beethoven. A man 
like Gandhi is much more than a great Hindu; his per- 
sonality has a universal value. . . . 

296. Romain Holland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

8 February 1923 

.... But sad to say, the writers who strike me most 
at present, those of most solid value, all seem to be in 
the enemy camp: Drieu la Rochelle, Henry de Monther- 
lant (detestable, admirable) . The wave of violence pass- 
ing over the world carries them high, whereas the paci- 
fists and the non-violent are following along in the trough 
of the wave and seem to be sinking. Gandhi is the only 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


exception with genius, but he’s not an artist — luckily for 
him! . . . 

297. Romain Rolland to Paul Atnann (Austria) 

Villeneuve, Friday , 9 February 1923 

.... I have just finished quite a long essay on 
Mahatma Gandhi which I shall bring out next month in 
two articles in the review Europe. (You know they’ve final- 
ly succeeded in getting it going — directed by Arcos and 
Colin.) I’ve got a Swiss publisher I’m friendly with to ac- 
quire all the publishing rights of Gandhi’s works in the 
European languages; the French and German editions are 
being prepared at the moment, and my essay will serve 
as an introduction. It’s all most impressive. Gandhi 
has the purity and burning love of a Francis of Assisi, and 
at the same time he’s a heroic leader; his twenty-year 
campaign in South Africa is an extraordinary adventure. 
As always happens, we don’t seem to realize that there’s a 
Jesus of Nazareth living among us; all he lacks is the 
cross. Everyone knows that without the Jews Rome would 
have refused it to Jesus, and England is just the same as 
Rome. But on the other hand Jesus never saw a people 
three hundred million strong thrilling to his breath. 

It’s very interesting to see Tagore’s attitude to Gan- 
dhi. I have a series of unpublished letters and texts by 
Tagore and Gandhi’s replies. It’s hard to say who’s die 
greater, the saint or the sage. But for these two lights 
to come to us from India at the same time— what a moral 
fortune for a people! Europe has nothing similar to set 
up against it. . . . 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi ■ Correspondence 

298. Romain Rolland to Pawl Colin (Belgium) 

Villeaeuve, Monday, 19 February 1923 

.... Arcos has written to ask me to send my manu- 
script to Paris, as “the French section is his responsibility”. 
But since it was arranged in advance between us that I 
should send it to you in Brussels, I’m posting it to you to- 
day in a registered packet; perhaps you’d sort it out with 
Arcos. Anyway it seems to me that the “Gandhi” comes 
into your “foreign section”. . . . 

As I told you, this is the first half. Don’t be frighten- 
ed at the humber of pages: 61 pages of copy! It won’t 
make more than about thirty normal pages (it makes 35 in 
my handwriting) .-Insist on it appearing all at once in the next 
number: it’s already unfortunate that it has to be split into 
two halves. The whole ought to produce an effect for the 
review Europe rather similar to what my Vie de Beethoven did 
for the Cakiers de la Quinzaine. 

The second half, I believe, will be -the most interesting. 
I’ve put in a splendid debate between Tagore and Gandhi 
based on documents unpublished in Europe, and the end 
is to be a universal appeal. 

Be so good as to send me the proofs. I shall only 
keep them a day, but I shall need to check all those 
names and dates. 

I suggest you put the (rather clumsy) long bibliogra- 
phical note, etc., at the head of the article. Use small print, 
to gain space. 

.... If it’s absolutely impossible to fit this first half 
into one number, if it has to be divided into three arti- 
cles, the cut should be -made on page 37, at the words: 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


“On 28 July 1920 , Gandhi announced to India. . . .” 

But I’d consider this arrangement most unfortu- 
nate. . . . 

299. Romain Holland to Paul Colin (Belgium) 

Tuesday , 20 February 

.... An urgent request for you to have the printers 
send me two sets of proofs of my article, so that I can 
keep one. I am without my only two fair copies; one 
is in your hands, the other has gone to R. Goldscheid. . . . 

300. Romain Holland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

20 February 1923 

.... I’ve just sent the first half of my Gandhi to 
Europe and to the Vienna Friedenswarte, and Gorki has asked 
for it too for his new Russian review in Berlin. I’m copy- 
ing out die second half; it’ll be about 80 pages. 

301. Romain Holland to Auguste For el (Switzerland) 

Wednesday, 21 February 1923 

.... I have been spending the last few months study- 
ing the doctrine of Mahatma Gandhi, the great Hindu, 
at present imprisoned for six years by the British gov- 
ernment. I’m having a selection of his works translated 
into French and German (300 or 400 pages out of the 
1,200 published in Madras under the title of Young India), 
and I am at the moment putting the finishing touches to a 
long essay on Gandhi, which will serve as an introduction 


Remain Roliand and Gandhi : Correspondence 

to the French and German editions. This essay will first 
appear in the Vienna Friedenswarte and the new review Europe 
in Paris. I know few personalities as great as this man 

who joins the religious genius of his race to the European 

genius of action. He is the Master, not, as has been said, 

of non-resistance, or passive resistance (he loathes passivity), 
but of heroic resistance without violence , by the power of self- 
sacrifice and the love of other men. And he’s not 

content with preaching it; he’s proved that it works, in 
his twenty-year fight in South Africa (1893-1914), where 
he finally came out victorious, at the price of nameless 
sufferings joyfully accepted — a real moral epic, which I am 
relating in my article. And this weak, insignificant- 
looking little man has been able to arouse the 300 million 
Indians, uniting Hindus and Muslims, reopening the doors 
of the great Indian family to the pariahs, appealing to 
women, and never finding a word of hatred for the Eng- 
lish whose domination he wishes to overthrow. At pre- 
sent the English are hastily offering the Hindus the reforms 
for which they have long been asking, but I doubt whe- 
ther that will be enough to check the movement. India 
has woken up. . . . 

302. Romain Roliand to Andre Suares (France) 

Tuesday,~'27 February 1923 

.... I am finishing a long essay [onj Mahatma Gan- 
dhi. These 80 pages which will make up two articles in 
the review Europe have caused me to read 1,200 or 1,500 
pages by my “guru”, as the Indians put it; I’ve spent 
several months over it, but I don’t regret it. The man 
and his activities really are extraordinary. There’s no point 
in telling you about it; you can judge for yourself by 
my article. It’s unbelievable that we haven’t been better 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


informed about it in Europe long ago, for his prodigious 
life’s work has been going on for thirty years already; 
before moving to the Indian theatre he operated in South 
Africa from 1893 to 1914, with an energy which tore vic- 
tory from the most stubborn races in the world, the English 
and the Boers. I’m having Gandhi’s works (his articles) 
translated into French and German — or at least a selection 
which my sister and I have made — and my essay will form 
the introduction to them. I don’t believe there is in the 
world a greater religious soul, more pure, more true or 
more modest; and he’s a bold man of action as well. The 
epithet “non-resistance” applied to him in Europe is the 
last thing to suit him. I have spoken of him with Tagore 
and several other intelligent Hindus; they all of them vene- 
rate him, even Tagore, who disagrees with Gandhi on 
many points. Tagore, who has his pride (he’s a high- 
caste Brahmin, and though he’s not vain or proud, he 
knows his worth), said to me: “I’d kneel before him.” 
If he died in prison, he’d become a god. While he’s alive 
he doesn’t permit it; he says, ‘T am a man like everyone 
else. I have no vision, no revelation.” And perhaps that’s 
the greatest proof of the strength he can communicate. . . . 

303. Romain Rolland to Stefan Zweig (Austria) 


Wednesday, 28 February 1923 

My dear Friend, 

I have spent the last two months in spiritual inti- 
macy with Mahatma Gandhi. I have finished a long 
essay of about 80 pages which will appear as two articles 
in the review Europe. I’ve also sent it to Rudolf Goldscheid 
for his Friedenswarte (although he can only publish part of 
it, for lack of space); but that was ten days ago and he 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

hasn’t acknowledged reception ; I hope the copy hasn’t 
been lost in transit. 

He really is a “great soul” (“Mahatma”). I know 
none in the world more pure, more true, more holy, and 
at the same time he’s a torrent of action. There’s nothing 
more against his nature than this “non-resistance” or 
“passive resistance” which is attributed to him; anything 
“passive” is repugnant to him. What he preaches by word 
and example is active and fruitful sacrifice, the gift of self 
in the love of mankind. I expect much good to come 
from the knowledge of his thought in Europe. 

I believe I told you that I’m also having Gandhi’s 
works translated into German and French (or rather a 
selection made by my sister and myself from the 1,200 
pages of the Madras edition), and my essay will form the 
introduction. A Swiss publisher I know, Emil Roniger 
of Rheinfelden (director of the Rotapfelverlag in Zurich) 
acquired all Gandhi’s European publishing rights on my 
advice, and he’ll make arrangements for their appearance 
with publishers in other nations. I’m involved in this in 
a completely disinterested way, for Gandhi seems to me 
of the same order as Christ. All he lacks is the cross. 

The controversy between Gandhi and Tagore is very 
fine as well, and I’ve been able to bring the main texts 
together. It’s hard to know to whom to give the palm, 
the saint or the sage. 

304. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

1 March 1923 

.... For my part, I’m moving further and further 
away from the Church; the months I have lived with 
Gandhi have made me feel its degradation even more 
sharply. For in the end Gandhi is doing nothing more 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


than instinctively resuming Christ’s doctrine and spirit. 
But he lives and does what he says like Christ, which no 
Christian does. The other day, Adolphe Ferriere showed 
me a letter from Dom Brizio, who is perhaps the best 
Christian of our day. The poor man wanted to save the 
world by summoning an international Parliament of writers, 
scientists, thinkers, etc., etc ! Gandhi has reminded us that the 
world can’t be — let’s not say saved, which is impossible! — but 
reawakened other than by the virtue of sacrifice, entire and 
unreserved. These are Christ’s words. Leave everything, 
and follow me! . . . 

305. Romain Rolland to Paul Colin (Belgium) 

Saturday , 10 March 1923 
.... I made great haste to send you the copy of my 
article before 20 February, and I have not yet received 
the proofs for the number appearing on 15 March! You 
cannot carry on any serious work on a review if you do not 
right from the start demand punctuality from the printers as 
well as the contributors. I am suspending despatch of the 
rest of my article until I have received and checked the 
proofs which have been requested and promised three or 
four times already. 

.... In any case I should not allow the number to 
appear without the proofs being checked by the authors. . . . 

306. Romain Rolland to Jacques Mesnil (France) 

Monday , 12 Match 1923 

.... I have just finished a long study on Gandhi 
which will appear in two articles in Europe. My sister and 
I have spent all our evenings for several months reading 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

his works (the collection of articles 1,200 or 1,500 pages, 
published in Madras); we are having a selection (300 or 
400 pages) translated and published in French and German. 
I’ve also read a good proportion of the Anglo-Indian 
literature on the subject, and I’m beginning to get to know 
him. He’s a splendid fellow. The snippets on him in 
VHumanite and CAarte make me laugh. There’s one cliche 
in particular of Communist jargon that’s really rich when 
applied to India; I mean the epithet “petit-bourgeois”. . . . 

307. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) 

Monday , 12 Ma?ch 1923-Villeneuve 

.... The article in UHumaniU is childish. There is 
no “petit-bourgeois” party in India, where the towns play 
only an insignificant role and 80% of the population are 
agricultural labourers. There’s no possible analogy between 
the Indian parties and what’s happening in Europe. 

What’s more, the article in question is a fine specimen 
of sleight of hand. The only important minority contradicting 
pure Gandhism was a reformist minority aiming at partici- 
pation in the Legislative Council, hence the transformation 
of Gandhian non-cooperation into parliamentary opposition. 
The violent revolutionaries were insignificant in number. The 
article has done a juggling trick with the two opposition 

As to the future, no one can tell. We mustn’t imagine 
that paradise will reign on the earth ; it never will. We must 
fight, which is Gandhi’s own law — but by self-sacrifice. . . . 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


308. Romain Rolland to Albert Gregoire (France) 

Wednesday , 14 March 1923 

.... The times are, and will again be, bard, cruel and 
full of trials, but they are powerful and fertile. You allude 
to Tolstoy in your letter. This month you will read a long 
study I’m publishing (in the review Europe, published in 
Paris by Rieder) on another Tolstoy, more heroic and mes- 
sianic; Mahatma Gandhi, master of non-violent resistance, 
who is at present arousing 300 million men in India. 

309. Romain Rolland to Paul Colin (Belgium) 

Thursday 15 March, evening {1923) 

.... Really, my dear friend, w'hat is going on? Has 
the publisher sworn to scupper his own review? You write 
to me on the 12di that someone telephoned you in the morning 
to say the proofs had arrived, and I still haven’t got them 
after the last post on the 15th! The printer is making game 
of us. If you can’t control him, let’s drop the review. 
Collaboration is impossible in such circumstances. . . . 

310. Romain Rolland to Anna-Maria Curtins 


Monday, 19 March 1923 


.... I’ll see that you’re sent two numbers of a new 
review, Europe (published by our group of good Europeans 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

in Paris) in which I’m publishing a long study on Mahatma 
Gandhi. There should be much there to interest you and 
your friends, and I believe Gandhi’s thought is destined 
to have considerable repercussions in Europe. I have just 
spent several months studying his works; he’s not only the 
highest religious conscience in the world, but the master 
of energy without violence. He opens a way of salvation 
in the midst of human destruction. . . . 

311. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

8 May 1923 

.... We got back yesterday. Our stay in England 
was interesting to the end. We saw Hardy, Morel and 
Andrews (the only Englishman who’s a close friend of 
Gandhi and Tagore). . . . 

312. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

25 May 1923 

.... I’m glad you liked the conclusion of my essay 
on Gandhi. Some Hindus in Paris have written to express 
their emotion. Nag hasn’t written to me yet, but I know 
he’s deep in preparations for his thesis examination. My 
sister, who’s just read his work, is expostulating about the 
Machiavellian depths to which English diplomacy has sunk. 
It seems there’s a treaty, very grave and complete, along- 
side which Machiavelli looks a babe in arms. The chapter 
on espionage is particularly spicy, I’m told. Andrews has 
sent me some new books and illustrated albums on Gan- 
dhi’s campaign in South Africa before 1914; I shall make 
use of them in my planned reshaping of my articles in 
book form. I see my articles have (of course!) had much 

Romain RoIIand to Foreign Correspondents 


more effect abroad than in France. Publishers in the 
United States and Sweden are asking for permission to 
bring them out as a book. . . . 

313. Romain Roll and to Luc Durtain (France) 

Villeneuve, Friday , 1 June 1923 

.... The little trip to England was very interesting. 
Not only did I see Shaw, Wells, Thomas Hardy and other 
Gentlemen of the Pen; I also saw people from the inner 
circle of Gandhi and Tagore, like the C. F. Andrews of 
whom I speak in my articles, whom I wasn’t expecting to 
meet in London. He was in transit there, having come to 
appeal to English politicians on behalf of the Indians 
who are being oppressed again in Africa. He was the 
companion of Gandhi’s ordeals in the Transvaal in 1913- 
1914, and having spent twenty years in India he’s the 
link between Tagore and Gandhi, the only man to be 
present at their recent talks. He’s taught me a lot. I am 
completing my notes for the publication in brochure form. 
I’m not sure whether this evocation of Gandhi will touch any- 
one in France other than yourself and a very small number; 
in fact I rather doubt it. Paris and its egoistic lack of 
concern really have hit me hard; England seemed to me 
much more aware of the seriousness of the situation; over 
there, people are suffering and they don’t hide it. In 
France, if it’s hidden, it’s well hidden. As one of the young 
pontiffs of the Revue Europicnne recently put it, “Since the 
war, we don’t know what pain is any more. . . .” If they 
have no grasp of pain, let them beware that pain doesn’t 
end up grasping them! . . . 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

314. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) 

Villeneuve , Thursday, 7 June 1923 

.... Since finishing the publication of my essay on 
Gandhi in Europe , I’ve had the good luck to meet C. F. Andrews 
in London — that admirable Scotsman I mention in my 
articles, who in twenty years in India has become a close 
friend of Tagore and Gandhi, and the link between them. 
After 1913 he was the companion of Gandhi’s ordeals in 
the Transvaal. He’s taught me a lot; thanks to him I’ve 
had at my disposal a few more documents which allow 
me to fill in the early period (his youth and his time in 
South Africa). So I’ve done a bit of reworking on the 
first ten or twelve pages of my essay, as well as the 
bibliography. Now I can bring out my study as a little 
volume, published by Stock. 

Two Hindu publishers in Madras have brought out 
collections of Gandhi’s articles and speeches: S. Ganesen 
(29 Pycrofts Road, Triplicane, Madras, S.D.) and Natesan, 
whose address I haven’t got. (But it’s enough to say 
Madras, if you put “Publisher” on the envelope.) 

The two most important collections are those I men- 
tioned: Toung India by Ganesan and the one by Natesan 
called Speeches and Writings, 1922. 

There’s a very fine book on the South African move- 
ment, unfortunately very hard to find now, by Joseph J. 
Doke: M. K. Gandhi , An Indian Patriot in South Africa , 1909, 
London, Indian Chronicle. This is the book that revealed 
Gandhi to Tolstoy. I used it in my reworking last month, 
but I don’t possess a copy; I had to return the volume. 

Gandhi’s journal in South Africa, Indian Opinion , is 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


even rarer. It probably doesn’t exist any more outside a 
few large libraries in London and South Africa. I’ve had 
a few numbers in my hands. 

I’m sorry I can’t give you an address for C. F. Andrews, 
who came to London to ask the help of die politicians on 
behalf of the Indians who are being persecuted again in 
eastern Africa. He will have left again by now. 

I am certain that the pure light of Gandhi will find 
its way into many European hearts. But I haven’t die 
least hope of his thought having any influence on action 
in Europe — at least not in the foreseeable future and, I fear, 
not before the ruin of Europe. The European mind and 
temperament have been deformed for too many centuries 
in the direction of material action. They are no longer 
aware of the incalculable forces of the Soul; but in the 
coming centuries, the giant Asia will take — -will command — 
an increasingly large place in human evolution, proportionate 
to the decline of Europe, which is committing suicide. . . . 

315. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

8 June 1923 

.... I’m also expecting visits this summer from 
C. F. Andrews and W. W. Pearson, the two friends of 
Tagore and Gandhi who teach in Santiniketan. Since 
writing my articles, I’ve read (with my sister’s help) some 
more very interesting documents on Gandhi’s youth and his 
work in South Africa. I’ve reshaped the first twelve or 
fifteen pages of my study, and now I’m going to bring it 
out in a small volume. I gather Barbusse has announced 
he’s going to “reply” to my articles on Gandhi in the 
next number of Clarte. He’d do better to take the whole 
enterprise in hand; he hasn’t written anything in it for a 
year, and it’s dying the death. (It’s flinging out desperate 
appeals into all tire winds that blow. . . .) 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

316. Remain Holland to Stefan Zweig (Austria) 

Villeneuve, Friday, 8 June 1923 

.... I’ve also just finished my study on Gandhi, 
working from the documents provided for me by Andrews. 
I’m adding some important details to the account of his 
youth and the period in South Africa. The study thus 
reworked will appear as a small volume in French and 
German. It seems to have provoked a reaction in Clarte; 
Barbusse has announced that he’s going to “reply”. To 
whom? To Mahatma Gandhi? . . . 

317. Romain Holland to Waldo Frank (U.S.A.) 

Villeneuve, Sunday , 17 June 1923 

.... My Gandhi is going to come out in book form. 
. . . I’ve filled out the articles with information I gathered 
in London from one of his close friends, his old companion 
in his ordeals in the Transvaal, C. F. Andrews. I’m 
pleased to see the commotion already being caused in Ger- 
man and Russian minds by this resume of the great Hindu’s 
thought, which up till now has not been recognized. . . . 

318. Romain Holland to Paul Colin (Belgium) 

Villeneuve, Sunday, 17 June 1923 

.... There is some negligence in the review’s secre- 
tariat. Robertfranc (or is it Robertfrance?) wrote to me 
about ten days ago, claiming to enclose a request being 

Remain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


sent to me by the director of a review called Orient, some- 
thing to do with my Gandhi. There was nothing in the 
envelope but Robertfranc’s letter. I wrote to him at once 
to point out his omission and ask for the letter- he men- 
tioned, but I’ve had no reply and no missing letter. I 
really would rather like to know what Orient is and what 
exactly I was being asked. . . . 

319. Romain Rolland to Andre e Karpeles (France) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
Monday , 18 June 1923 

.... I hope to see our dear friend Kalidas Nag soon, 
before his departure for India. Pm also expecting visits 
from G. F. Andrews and W. W. Pearson, the friends of 
Tagore and Gandhi. I met Andrews last month in London, 
where he’d come to plead the cause of the oppressed 
Indians in Africa, and he struck me as a noble and pure 
man, just like one of the early apostles. Thanks to him I’ve 
been able to fill out my study on Gandhi which appeared 
in the review Europe which I am now going to publish as 
a brochure. 

320. Romain Rolland to Alberto de Angelis (Italy) 

Villeneuve, 7 July 1923 

.... I am writing to the directors of the review Europe 
to have you sent the 15 April and 15 May numbers, 
which carry the continuation and conclusion of my study on 
Mahatma Gandhi. I should very much like you to know 
the whole of this essay. Gandhi’s personality is impressive 
and his action is colossal, and it is incredible that they are 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

both, so little and so inaccurately known in Europe. In 
the 15 April number you can also read the magnificent 
debate between Gandhi and Tagore. . . . 

321. Romain Rolland to the Review Renovacion 


Villencuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
Wednesday , 18 July 1923 

Thank you for your w r ords of sympathy. I willingly 
grant you the right to translate my Vie de Tolstoy , provided 
the Madrid edition does not enter America. 

I should also like to point out to you the Life I have 
just written of the great Hindu Mahatma Gandhi, for he 
is an even loftier spirit, purer than Tolstoy and whose action 
is immense. My study has so far appeared only in three 
numbers of the Parisian review Europe (published by Rieder, 
Place Saint-Sulpice, 15 March, 15 Apiil, 15 May 1923). 
But I am going to collect these articles into a volume 
which will appear this autumn, no doubt, published by 
Stock. . . . 

322. Romain Rolland to Maurice Delamain (France) 

Villeneuve (Vaud) Villa Olga 
Friday , 20 July 1923 

.... I am glad my study on Gandhi interested you, 
and I hope the little volume will make its effect in Europe, 
through the grandeur of the personality portrayed there. 

I am sending you 13 duplicated pages, of which I 
should be grateful if you would take account in your 
projected edition. The first 10 should be purely and simply 
substituted for the beginning of my study as it appeared in 

Romam Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


the review Em ops (the 15 March number). Pages 11, 12 
and 13 indicate a few changes or additions to be made in 
the rest of the study; you should not have much difficulty 
in intercalating them into the corresponding pages of the 
Europe text. 

Apart from that, you need do no more than follow 
the Europe text, and you can have it printed straightaway. 

.... Thank you for suggesting to send me the proofs 
of the volume of Gandhi’s articles. I do indeed think it 
might be useful for me to check and, if necessary, annotate 
some passages. 

In my opinion it would be a good idea to publish the 
brochure on Gandhi first; it will prepare the public for 
the volume of articles. . . . 

.... My new notes come from conversations I had 
in London with C. F. Andrews, the close friend of Tagore 
and Gandhi, who had arrived from India. . . . 

N.B. For the printers — My text is divided into little 
chapters separated by *** signs. 

323. Romain Rolland to Roger Avermaete (Belgium) 

Vilkneme , Sunday , 22 July 1923 

.... Since ffie Editions Promithis want to stait a col- 
lection of European books, attract their attention to my 
Mahatma Gandhi , which the publishing house of Stock 
is bringing out as a volume in October or November. If 
they’d be interested in doing a Dutch edition of it, I sug- 
gest they contact Delamain, director of Editions Stock, 7 
Rue du Vieux Colombier, Paris. . . . 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

324. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

23 August 1923 

.... As for Cremieux, I must admit that I haven’t 
read his article on Gandhi, nor the one on Annette et Sylvie ; 
I don’t take the Nouvelles Litteraires\ I’ve heard about the 
bad article and also a bit about the good one, but I can’t 
judge for myself. . . . 

325. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

13 September 1923 

.... Along with the little snake (which is what Nag 
means in Hindi), we had a visit from Pearson, Gandhi’s 
companion in the Transvaal. What a prodigious power over 
crowds this frail little man wields, with a voice so weak 
(weaker than mine) that he can’t be heard at ten paces! 
And multitudes hang on his lips, drink in his features and 
his gaze! On the day he visited Tagore’s Santiniketan, 
everything was turned upside down in the school from 
the very first evening; the students would obey no one but 
him, and even the masters harnessed themselves to the 
tasks he laid down. His wife is as weak in health as he is, 
and equally resistant to trials. This race of Gujarati Hindus 
is surely of different metal from the Bengalis. . . . 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


326. Romain Rolland. to Pierre Cere sole 
( Switzerland) 

Villeneuve , Villa Olga 
Wednesday , 10 October 1923 

.... I was expecting to have my Gandhi collected 
into a volume to send to you; I hope it won’t be much 
longer. Yes, he’s an apostolic figure, of immaculate heroism. 
He’s not the only one offered to us as a model and a guide 
by the reawakened Orient in these last hundred years. The 
old religious wellsprings are gushing forth again in Asia. 

I should greatly encourage young people looking for a 
thesis topic in history to study the origins and development 
of Conscientious Objectors. The movement seems to go 
back a long way. Gandhi in the Transvaal, twenty years 
ago, was referring to the English Conscientious Objectors 
whose activities had struck him. But in fact they must 
always have existed, ever since the early days of Christianity 
and the rebels against the orders of recantation issued by 
the Church rallying to the power of Constantine. . . . 

327. Romain. Rolland to Marcel Benedek (Hungary) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) 
Saturday , 27 October 1923 

.... Thank you for your friendly letter. If there is 
a Hungarian publisher interested in my Mahatma Gandhi , 
tell him to get in touch with the French publisher of the 
work, M. Delamain, director of the Stock Publishing House, 
Paris VI, 7 Rue du Vieux-Colombier, who alone is 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

empowered to make any agreements. The French edition 
is at the printers’ and will appear in a fortnight; needless to 
say I shall send it to you, and reserve you the rights of 
translation into Hungarian, if you want to undertake the 
task. . . . 

328. Romam Rolland to Paul Amann (Austria) 

Villcneuve, Tuesday , 30 October 1923 

.... Have you received the Gandhi volume in German ? 
I’ll send you the French one soon. It’s at the printers’. . . . 

329. Romam Rolland to Maurice Deiamain (France) 

Villencuve, Wednesday, 31 October 1923 

.... I am very surprised that you have sent me 
the corrected galley-proofs of Mahatma Gandhi. Have you 
not received the page-settings , which I returned to you on 
the 25th , from Territet , in a registered packet , with my authoriza- 
tion to print ? I made haste to check the page-settings in one 
day, so as to finish off the printing, and your latest package 
without any reference to what I sent you six days ago makes 
me afra’d the parcel may have been lost. Please let me 
know at once, and make investigations. 

.... I should like to believe M. Davray is more 
scrupulous in his literary reports than in those concerning 
India and English policy. (His allegation is absolutely 
false. You can be sure that my information is accurate; 
I correspond regularly with Englishmen and Indians in 
India, with Tagore and his circle, with Gandhi’s friends 
and partisans and with his journal Toung India, directed 
by his own son. Gandhi was condemned to six years’ 
imprisonment in March 1922 — in other words until 1928 — 

Roma in Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


and is still in prison; his wife, who is allowed to visit him 
once a month, is not using that right on Gandhi's express 
request, as he does not accept any privileges. The truth 
is that there is in England (as always; a liberal minority 
struck by Gandhi’s greatness of soul, who have organized 
a movement for his release, and there is a chance that they 
may succeed. But if freed, Gandhi will find bis authority 
redoubled by the trials he has been through.; 

As to the future, I shall not play the prophet; I am 
content to give an exact description of the present, and 
the present situation is that Gandhi’s influence has never 
been stronger. His authority is such that Das, leader of 
the reformist party, has recently been obliged to ask the 
prisoner for his advice and approbation. A week ago I 
had a letter from Ganesan in Madras, Gandhi’s friend and 
publisher, telling me a strange piece of news going round 
in India; there w T as a rumour that Gandhi was about 
to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and with the 
usual ready Indian imagination some people said he had 
already received it; Ganesan, who was asking me whether 
the report was accurate, asked me to use my influence 
with the Scandinavian jury; the Indians thought that if 
Gandhi were to receive this prize, European public opinion 
would exert so much pressure that England would be forced 
to release Gandhi. I need hardly add that the report is 
false, and there is little likelihood of the Nobel Committee 
risking offending England by giving a prize to her condem- 
ned prisoner! In any case I think it far from desirable! 
Gandhi is infinitely above Nobel Prizes. But you can see 
from this what M. Davray’s reports are worth. He probably 
got his documentation from the British Conservatives, whose 
tactics are to denigrate their enemies. 

In 1917 my friend Jean-Richard Bloch, an officer on 
the Italian front, was having lunch with the French Consul 
in Milan, who had recently been Vice-Consul in Zurich, and 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

heard him talking about the criminal activities of pacifists in 
Switzerland and a treasonable book recently published by 
Romain Rolland. This intrigued and amused him, as he 
knew me, and he asked the title of the book; the Consul 
named he Buisson Ardent , Volume 9 of Jean- Christophe, which 
came out in 1911. M. Davray’s report seems to me to be 
of the same order. 

If you read the long note on pp. 171-173 of my book, 
the enquiry by the Manchester Guardian , a paper opposed 
to Gandhi, you will see what intelligent and well-informed 
English people think about the gravity of the situation. 

330. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) 

Villen euve, Saturday, 3 November 1923 

.... My Gandhi, already published in German transla- 
tion by Rotapfelverlag in Zurich, will be brought out this 
month by Stock in Paris. I’ve given the authorization to 
print. . . . 

331. Romain Rolland to Mina Vallette (Switzerland) 

Villeneuve, Saturday, 10 November 1923 

.... You’ll find a short bibliography at the head of 
the volume. Nothing by Gandhi has yet been translated 
into French, but I am having a selection of his articles 
translated and brought out in two editions, French and 
German (by the same publishing houses as my little book). 

The article “Our Fallen Sisters” is taken from the 
volume of articles called Young India, published in English 
by S. Ganesan of Madras, the official publisher of Gandhi’s 
works and journal. 

Romain Rolland to Foreign. Correspondents 


332* Romain Rolland to Maurice Delamain (France) 

Villeneuve , 2 January 1924 

* ... I am also sending you some press cuttings noting 
the complete victory of the Indian Swarajists (partisans of 
Home Rule). Indian independence is making giant strides 
forward. (My compliments to M. Davray.) 

I certainly do not want my book used in the current 
wave of Anglophobia, for (and in this I am like Gandhi) I 
look upon England, with all her faults, as still being superior 
in liberalism to all the countries of Europe, including 
France. There have always been two Englands in the 
struggle: that of the Empire, which has surpassed German 
imperialism in despotism and in grandeur as well — Lord 
Gurzon is its latest representative — and secondly that of 
the old liberal and independent traditions, whose deeds in 
opposition have always been bold all through history, and 
which forms today the strongest bastion of liberalism in 
Europe. To confuse the two would not only be an in- 
justice and an error, but a crime against ourselves. The 
day they destroy the England of the Labour Party, the 
Union of Democratic Control, the Conscientious Objectors, 
free spirits like Wells, Shaw, etc., it will be the death of all 
European liberty. There would be no room left for any- 
one but the Mussolinis, the Stinnes, the Trotskys. I\o 
thank you very much! We must always distinguish between 
English imperialism and liberal England. . . . 


Remain RoIIand and Gandhi : Correspondence 

333. Romam Rolland to Louise Levi (Switzerland) 

Villeneuve , 10 January 1924 

.... Anyone who knows me can say that I am in 
no group, no literary or political party. My very reason 
for existence is to be outside all frameworks, and political 
frameworks revolt me above all others. Everything I 
say and write is on a different level. In any case, if I had 
any political inclinations it would be towards Mahatma 
Gandhi, whom I have just brought into my series of lives 
of illustrious men. (I am sending you the volume, and 
you can judge for yourself if there was ever a man more 
worthy of a place among the saints and heroes. . . .) 

334. Romam Rolland to Jacques Benoist-Mechin 


Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
Tuesday , 22 January 1924 

.... I am happy — but not surprised — that you have 
been struck by the emergence of the messianic figure of 
Gandhi. Like India herself, he is out of all proportion with 
our European products. We shall hear more about them! 
(Indeed we would have done so long ago if our ridiculous 
European self-satisfaction had not persuaded us that 
civilization begins with the thrice-burned ruins of Ilium.) 

Unfortunately the French and German translation of 
Gandhi’s writings has already been entrusted to competent 
hands, and the most essential of his articles will be brought 
out this year by Stock and, for Germany, the Zurich 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


Rotapfel Verlag. The latter (directed by Emil Roniger, 
Rheinfelden, Quellenstrasse) has acquired Gandhi’s European 
publishing rights from his Hindu publishers. You could in 
any case approach M. Roniger, using my name. 

Gandhi’s books are published in India in English and 
the native languages. His English is not impeccable, but 
his action-orientated thought loses less when transposed into 
European languages than that of Tagore, who is an artist 
even in English but whose English corresponds hardly at 
all to the Bengali original. 

.... I have news of Gandhi frequently. His impri- 
sonment is stricter than I had presumed (in a note on one 
of the closing pages of my book). He has almost no news 
of what happens outside, but his calm ardour is the same, 
and his fragile health is keeping up despite a recent 
operation. Outside, the last Assembly of all India (late- 
December) confirmed the victory of the Gandhist party. The 
Swarajists have the majority in many provinces, and the 
English dominator is vainly trying to disarm them by 
concessions which have come too late. The two Ali brothers, 
the Muslim leaders friendly with Gandhi, have recently 
come out of prison (their two-year sentence having expired) 
and resumed their place at the head of their co-religionists. . . - 

335. Romain Holland to Jenny Guyot (France) 

Villeneuve , 18 March 1924 

.... Look closely at the question of the Conscientious 
Objectors, Gandhi’s heroic non-violence, the International 
Civil Service. These are the rare roads to salvation avail- 
able to a Europe infected by the spirit of violence, and 
pregnant with new wars which will inevitably destroy her 
great races unless there is a desperate effort on the part of 
their moral elites. . . . 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

336. Romain Rolland to Stefan Zweig (Austria) 

Villeneuve , Saturday , 22 March 1924 

.... I cannot conceive of a future without a Eurasia. 

I have just received a long letter from Tagore, who is 
leaving for China; he describes the eternal conflict going on 
within him between two duties, two natures: the pure artist 
sighing for solitude and the man with the desire and the 
duty to help his fellows, neither of which can be sacrificed. 
I’m kept very regularly up to date with affairs there by 
my friends in Asia, and I’ve just written a dozen or so fresh 
pages, for Stock’s 25th edition, on events in India since 
my volume on Gandhi appeared. The repercussions of 
Gandhi’s thought in France are much deeper than I would 
have thought. Religious and Protestant circles in parti- 
cular are drinking in his words as if they came from 
Christ himself, and after ten long years of moral depression, 
of feeling leaderless, betrayed by their spiritual chiefs and 
their own pusillanimity, they’re getting a grip on them- 
selves again. I’ve had personal news and an affectionate 
message from Gandhi, and I know that in his rare moments 
of leisure (his doctors have ordered him to take a com- 
plete rest for several months, but he’s not obeying them 
and indeed he can’t, as he’s bound by his obligations as 
“Duce et Maestro”) he’s reading CUrambault and Les Pri- 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


337. Romain Roll and to Renee Thiesson (France) 

Villeneuve, 26 March 1924 

.... I have entered into direct communications 
with Gandhi who, himself hardly over an operation which 
could have killed him (and still might; the wound hasn’t 
healed after six weeks), worn out and down to two thirds of 
his weight which, even when normal, was less than that of 
a slim woman of small build, — has resumed Iris activities as 
leader, is sending out messages to the 300 million Indians, 
finds time in between for fine conversations on art and music 
with one of my Indian friends, has a kind and welcoming 
reception for even the humblest of those who come to beg 
for his help, forgets none of those he knew and loved and 
certainly shows a greater heart than Tagore. . . . 

338. Romain Rolland to H. Key-Rasmussen (Sweden) 

Villeneuve {Valid} Villa Olga 
Monday , 7 April 1924 

.... I have never met Gandhi, and have been able 
to communicate directly with him only since his libera- 
tion. But I know him through his two closest friends, his 
two English companions since the years of “non-resistance” 
(“non-acceptance” would be a much more accurate term) 
in South Africa: C. F. Andrews and W. W. Pearson. Both 
of them, being teachers in Santiniketan, have often served 
as intermediaries between Tagore and Gandhi. The un- 
fortunate Pearson came to see me last September and en- 
trusted me with various rare documents on Gandhi; two 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

days after leaving me lie died in a railway accident in Italy. 
A recent message from Gandhi told me of how he mourns 
for this man who, as he put it, “loved him like a brother”. 

Naturally I have contacts with several Indians who 
know Tagore and Gandhi, and S. Ganesan of Madras, the 
publisher of Young India , regularly sends me everything 
which seems interesting about the Mahatma. I’m adding 
to the new French edition (the 25th) of my book a dozen 
or so pages on recent events, since the liberation. You 
know that Gandhi nearly died last January, and he’s still 
far from recovering his health. 

.... At this very moment I have received a letter 
from India saying that Gandhi is at present using his lei- 
sure to read Jean-Christophe and CUrambault; he intends to 
write to me very soon on two points of his doctrine which 
he wants to defend against me. The particular point at 
issue is my rather harsh judgment on his disciple, Professor 
Kalelkar. . . . 

339. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

16 July 1924 

.... I have to write another introduction to the 
translated volume of Gandhi’s articles which Stock is to 
bring out. I was fed up with doing the job again, as 
when I’ve exhausted what I have to say on a subject, I 
normally content myself with distant respect for the rest 
of my life. But since I had to do it, I re-read the arti- 
cles, and I found something new in them, or at least I saw 
them in a new light; striking, and perhaps more tragic. 
So I no longer regret writing those pages, even though 
they took me a few days which I gave with a bad grace. . . . 

Romaic Rolland to Foreign. Correspondents 


340. Romain Rolland to Carlos Americo Amaya, 
of the Review ‘ ‘Renova cion” (Argentine) 

Villenmve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
24 July 1924 

.... You can use my articles in your review; I shall 
always be pleased to see my name among yours. I am 
grateful to you for your excellent translation of my 
■Gandhi. . . . 

341. Romain Rolland to Roger Avermaete (Belgium) 

Villeneuve, 28 July 1924 

.... I have been more involved in action than you, 
my dear Avermaete; and “on the high plateaux of specu- 
lative thought” where I held myself “above the battle”, I 
have been more lashed than most by insults and hatred. 
But my words have always been “to relieve my conscience”, 
“to say what I believe to be true”, not what is advan- 
tageous to men. To each his role! I do not mean to 
insult anyone who fulfils his role according to his conscience, 
but there are plenty of men already to deal with political 
utilitarianism; my own role is to defend the values I believe 
to be durable, not the values of today or tomorrow. It is 
clear that non-acceptance — don’t say non-resistance , and certainly 
not that ignoble word defeatism , which I reject with dis- 
gust — it is clear that Gandhian non-acceptance for example 
would lead its apostles in Europe to sacrifice without any 
immediate practical result — maybe not for a long time. It 
is nevertheless true and good on an absolute level, and it is 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

the only way to salvation open to human civilization. Be- 
sides, it’s not a foregone conclusion that civilization will be 
saved. But each man must do his duty, and the duty of 
the servant of truth is to tell the truth whatever the cost, 
either to himself or to others. 

American pragmatism has always seemed to me a piti- 
able way of dodging the issue, shifty and ineffective. For 
the Spirit, no compromise is possible. . . . 

342. Romain Rolland to Roger Avermaete (Belgium) 

Villeneuve, 9 August 1924 

.... But of course, my dear Avermaete, one must 
practise Gandhian non-acceptance in Europe, although it will 
lead its apostles in Europe to sacrifice without any immediate practi- 
cal result and maybe not for a long time; for it is nevertheless true- 
and good on an absolute level, I wrote this quite clearly at the 
end of my Gandhi , and you can read it again at the end of 
the introduction to G’s works in the Stock edition, which 
the Revue Europlenne is to publish. One must sacrifice one- 
self without immediate profit, without any profit for oneself 
and one’s nearest and dearest, when all humanity is at 
stake. Only to each his task. Don’t you understand that 
a man of 60 who will no doubt be dead before the next 
conflict no longer needs to set himself the problem of non- 
acceptance, as it will not be to him that the problem will 
be set. He must confine himself to opening the way to 
young people and saying to them: “It is for you to decider 
For it is you who will suffer.” My role at present is to' 
see beyond me and beyond you. As Michelangelo’s poem 
says, “I have been what you are. You will be what I 
am.” To each age its task! . . . 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


343. Romain Rolland to Charles Bernard (Switzerland) 

Villeneuve, 4 November 1924 

.... Paul Passy’s article is all right, but he hasn’t 
enough inkling yet of the present degree of brotherly feeling 
being achieved in India between the members (and even the 
leaders) of the various religions: Bishop of Calcutta, Protes- 
tant Missionaries, Muslims, Hindus. On the day when 
Gandhi ended his twenty-one-day holy fast, hymns were 
recited and sung by Christians, Mohammedans and Hin- 
dus. And for the Congress of Indian Unity which Gandhi 
stimulated, prayers were said in all the Catholic and Pro- 
testant churches, the Brahmin temples and the mosques. 
Gandhi’s influence there is Christ-like. . . . 

344. Romain Rolland to Louise Cruppi (France) 

20 December 1924 

.... Nag and our Indian friends send plenty of news 
of Gandhi and conversations with him, notably about 
art, or about my book. He turns out to be a man of 
admirable modesty, and in the midst of all his holiness, 
of a calm tolerance and moderation of mind always ready 
to understand the reasons of those who don’t share his 
ideas, without wavering for a moment in his own thought. 
It also seems that his long fast did him an unimaginable 
amount of moral good; beforehand he was not without 
troubles and fatigues, but at present he has resumed his 
complete equilibrium. Today he is presiding over the annual 
Congress of All India. . . . 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

345. Romain Holland to Gaston V. Rosselet 
(Switzerland) 1 

February 1925 

.... I merely wanted to make known in Europe a 
great spiritual movement and a great man, about whom I 
believe no European missionary has had anything to say 
worthy of the subject (since the fine forgotten book by 
Joseph J. Doke, in the Transvaal in 1909), although they 
should have made it their duty to do so long ago. In 
my turn I should like to ask M. Rosselet why it is that 
these Christians have passed over in silence the work of 
this greatest of Christians, though he is Christian only in 
spirit and not by baptism. 

My book never claimed to portray all the religious and 
social movements of modern India, and I had no reason 
to mention the Y.M.C.A. movements in it {Young Men's 
Christian Associations ); they are powerful enough to speak for 
themselves and they lose no opportunity to do so. It is 
true that Mr. Paul is worthy of all respect, and he too 
deserves a special study. But each thing in its time; I may 
resume my series of Indian studies. 

My book was read through by several Indian friends 
and by Lajpat Rai, one of the main leaders of the Swaraj 
party; they considered it to be true in the general impres- 
sion it gave. They pointed out a few errors of detail, such 
as the one M. Rosselet rightly mentions concerning the 
semi-failure of the abandonment of titles and honorary 
functions as ordered by the Committee of Non-co-operation. 

1 Formerly a missionary at Moulki (Canara, India) 

JRomain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


The corrections they pointed out will be made in the fol- 
lowing editions; they involve few alterations to my text 
and none to my conclusions. 

As to the rest, M. Rosselet seems to be making him- 
self the champion of the British Government. I shall not 
follow him on to this ground, as I should have too much 
to say and I have no time today. What is postponed is 
not lost. 

I shall merely reply on two or three points: 

1. On the ritual burning of foreign cloth I had a 
lot to say, and I do not understand why M. Rosselet hints 
that I pass it over in silence. I gave considerable space 
(pages 83-85 of the French edition) to G. F. Andrews’ woeful 
reproaches and (pages 112-140, particularly page 139) to 
the opposition between Tagore and Gandhi. I join my 
•own regrets to those of Andrews. 

2. The spinning wheel seems ludicrous to M. Rosselet 
as an economic instrument. Perhaps it would be if Gandhi 
advocated it as the sole means of support for the Indian 
villager, but Gandhi says nothing of the sort. What he 
says is that the wheel would allow the villager to add a 
little to his meagre subsistence and to economise on cloth- 
ing. In the Toung India number of 22 January 1925 there 
is an account of a large popular meeting at Vedchhi, at 
which an old man of sixty told Gandhi that he now spins 
after a hard day’s work in the fields, not at all out of faith 
in him, but because: “I spin for myself. I produce my own 
cotton, I spin my own clothes and those of my family. This 
allows me to save. . . .” The cottage industry of the 
spinning wheel existed almost everywhere in India before 
the English; the English destroyed it and Gandhi is re- 
establishing it. This is not a mediaeval return to a for- 
gotten and obsolete task, but a natural, practical and direct 
means of reducing expenses and at the same time striking 
at the foreign industries who come to squeeze out of India 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

the money they spend abroad. For this is one of India’s 
largest complaints against England: until their time, all the 
conquerors who succeeded each other on Indian soil, once 
the initial damage was done, settled down, became Indian 
and consumed the riches they extorted on the spot; by 
this means perhaps one generation of men suffered, but 
India herself was not carved up, whereas English domination 
keeps England alive at the expense of India, and India 
is being ruined. 

3. M. Rosselet speaks of the co-operative organiza- 
tions created by the government. They exist, certainly. 
But I have consulted my Indian friends about them, and all 
the independent Indians (and even Englishmen as well in- 
formed as the head of the Agricultural School of Sri- 
niketan, which is attached to Santiniketan) would agree 
that these co-operative organizations are not based on a 
true spirit of mutual help, and that if the government 
withdrew its financial support they would at once disappear. 

4. Finally, my Indian friends will no doubt be much 
surprised to read that the British Government “has given 
its support to all attempts to fight against alcoholism”; I 
shall leave it to them to reply. But I have no need to 
wait for their reply to know that at this very moment the 
British Government is imposing the poison of opium on 
India, on the hypocritical pretext that it is obeying the 
wishes of the Indians. It is stopping its own ears to their 
indignant protests, but it has not succeeded in preventing 
us from hearing them: they emerge violently in the Indian 
press and even the English liberal press, such as the Man- 
chester Guardian. 

(1 add that if European readers want to follow the 
Gandhist movement for themselves, they must read the 
weekly journal Young India, whose address I quote.) 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


346. Romain Rolland to Nobuyeshi Ichitani (Japan) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
22 February 1925 

.... I am glad you have acquired the right to 
translate my book on Gandhi into Japanese. I should be 
pleased to write a short preface for your translation. 

Let me remind you that there may be some interest 
in your adding as an appendix to the volume the intro- 
duction which I wrote for the volume of articles by Gandhi 
called La jeune Inde (also published by Stock). You would 
not need to ask the publisher for a fresh authorization, as I 
give it to you herewith. This introduction was written a year 
after my work on Gandhi, and complements it. 

If in the course of your work you come across any 
difficulties, either with a Hindu term or a French expres- 
sion, send me a list of them and I shall reply. . . - 1 

347. Romain Rolland to Maurice Delamain (France) 

Villeneuve , Monday , 26 October 1925 

.... Last year, when you printed the ten editions of 
my Gandhi , you gave me the hope that when they were 
exhausted you would reset the work so that I could modify 
the text. This is not at all the same as adding an “Errata 
and Addenda” to the old text; one risks harming the text 

1 On 3 March, Romain Rolland sent Mr. Ichitani two pages of 
modifications and corrections. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

in the readers’ minds by correcting it. So see if it would 
not be possible to insert the changes into the main body of 
the text. I have a copy which was carefully revised with 
me and corrected by Gandhi’s friend Lajpat Rai, leader of 
the Indian Swarajist party since Das’ death. It would be 
a pity not to revise the impression thoroughly after the 
50th edition. 

I am perfectly convinced that the book will prove of 
durable interest — not for its author’s sake, but for the subject. 
I only have to look at the astonishing spread of Gandhism 
in Europe; Gandhi is being consulted by young people in 
every country. (One can follow this correspondence in 
the Indian reviews in which Gandhi’s replies are publish- 
ed.) The Zurich publisher Roniger is continuing his edi- 
tion of all Gandhi’s works, and is probably going to devote 
a review to him which will follow the Swarajist movement 
regularly. Only it is clear that the French book, which 
is now translated into most languages, will carry on its way 
chiefly in translation. . . . 

348. Romani Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) 

Villeneuve (Valid) Villa Olga 
10 December 1925 

.... I have come to know Gandhi through my con- 
versations with Indian friends and friends of Tagore, whom 
I saw in Paris and Switzerland after 1919. I have also 
made contact with Gandhi’s Indian publisher, Ganesan of 
Madras, who has. made the main published works avail- 
able to me. I spent six or eight months reading them 
with my sister, Madeleine Rolland (who has translated 
Thomas Hardy, Wells and Tagore into French). We read 
them aloud, line by line, pen in hand. Then my book 
was written in three weeks. One of my Indiaan friends 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


who first told me about Gandhi promised me when he 
left for India to send me all the documents on the 
Mahatma, but because of Oriental slowness a year went by 
and my book was published before any of the promised 
documents had been sent to me. This caused great 
amazement in India. My book has spread all over the 
country; an English edition has been published (there are 
two other English editions in England and America, an. 
edition in Hindi, another in Tamil, and a fourth is now 
being published in Bengali). 

You ask me for information on the Indian movement; 
why don’t you read, instead of the very superficial Current 
Thought , Gandhi’s weekly journal Young India (at Navaji- 
van Press, Sarkhigara Vadi, Sarangpur, Ahmedabad)? That 
would give you several articles by Gandhi every week. 

The main change in Indian politics is that Gandhi 
has released his disciples from the obligation not to enter 
into the Councils and to make use of the spinning wheel. 
He did this so as not to split the Swarajist movement,, 
declaring at the same time that for his own part he would 
maintain the whole of his position. It goes without saying 
that on crucial principles like Non-resistance and Non- 
violence he admits of no compromise. His activity is as 
immense as ever. He has recently travelled across the 
whole of India, making speeches everywhere and writing 
every day. His religious power has never been stronger, 
even if from the political point of view he has temporarily 
yielded first place to his great Swarajist disciples like Lajpat 
Rai, the most eminent Indian Swarajist leader since the 
death of Das. 

He is at present in his monastery, Satyagraha Ashram 
of Sabarmati, near Ahmedabad. I have had the good 
fortune to send him an admirable disciple, a young Eng- 
lishwoman called Madeleine Slade, daughter of an admi- 
ral who commanded the Indian fleet; she has recently en- 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

tered his Ashram. She is a woman of remarkable intelligence 
and energy who has been touched by faith. I am receiving 
letters from her full of fervour and mystic joy that she has 
now been admitted into the Mahatma’s closest circle, and 
Gandhi too has recognized her high moral value and the 
sincerity of her faith; he has written and told me so. I 
see her as a holy woman alongside a new Christ. One’s 
thoughts are always returning to Christ when one reads 
these accounts by a disciple who sees him daily and has 
the joy of hearing him speak; she tells a tale of nobility, 
gentleness, purity and touching modesty, and that asto- 
nishing control over himself and all who approach him. 

When Miss Slade arrived at the Ashram convent (where 
she was strictly obliged to follow the religious rules of 
work and prayer) she found a Frenchwoman whose name I 
don’t know. This woman of no great social rank had 
come from Lille all alone to the depths of India without 
knowing a word of any language other than French. Until 
then she’d studied theosophy in a confused sort of way, and 
her thoughts were a bit disturbed; she longed to see the 
Mahatma so that he could soothe die troubles of her soul. 
No one knew French at the Sabarmati Ashram; Miss Slade 
served as an interpreter between this woman and the 
Mahatma, and it gave her an impressive vision of light 
and peace gradually returning into this lost soul under die 
Mahatma’s words and calm gaze. The Frenchwoman 
found the answer that her restless mind was seeking, and 
she set off again alone, at peace with herself, to return to 

Isn’t this a striking chance example of the far-reaching 
radiant power exercised by this Asian Messiah over the 
humblest souls? (Gandhi would refuse the title of Mes- 
siah with indignant humility.) . . . 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


349. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) 

Villeneuve , 17 December 1925 

.... Gandhi come to Europe? No, no, he has 
better things to do. He hasn’t an hour to spare from the 
superhuman task assigned to him out there. Beware of the 
eternal confusion of roles, of which there are many! A 
Mahatma, a religious man of action is not a thinker, an 
artist, or a writer of books; such men have other tasks, which 
impose other duties. One must never desire a man to 
do any other task than his essential task. If everyone did 
his own task, the world would be a better place. . . . 

350. Romain Rolland to Henri Hisquin (France) 

Villeneuve, 14 January 1926 

.... I see Gandhi at very close quarters through 
letters sent to us regularly by one of his disciples, a young 
Englishwoman, daughter of an admiral who commanded 
the Indian fleet. She became a convert to Gandhism and 
has recently entered the Ashram (his principal convent) at 
Sabarmati, near Ahmedabad. She’s a fine forceful woman, 
of magnificent sincerity, ardently devoted and allowing 
nothing in the world to put her off — a real holy woman of 
Christ. I expect much from her activities there, for she 
joined to the religious spirit of Asia the will of a European 
and an instinct for order. Gandhi saw how to appreciate 
her from her very early days there. So I see him through 
her letters in the familiarity of daily conversations,*':?' ancT 
it’s a real Gospel story. The incredible genJ^S^ss '-ibf so in- 


Rn mai'n Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

flexible a man, his kindness, modesty and authority all 
exercise a power which fascinates and does good. When 
Miss Madeleine Slade ( that’s the name of my English 
friend who is his disciple) arrived in the Ashram, she found 
a Frenchwoman, whose name I don’t know; a woman of no 
great social rank, who lived in Lille, having read my book 
(and without writing to me) she set off for India, knowing 
nothing but French. How she arrived in the depths of 
that huge country (Ahmedabad is a good way from the 
coast, a whole night’s train journey from Bombay, and 
Sabarmati is some way from Ahmedabad on foot) I cannot 
conceive. No one speaks French in Gandhi’s Ashram, so 
there was no one to understand her, and Miss Slade served 
as the interpreter. So she was present at the moving 
spectacle of this unknown Frenchwoman, suffering grave 
torments of mind, who had come to seek an answer from 
the toothless little old sage, — finally receiving her answer, 
recovering her peace of mind and after three days setting 
off back to France, just as she came, alone, in silence and 
at peace. Isn’t this a great thing? And but for chance 
it would never have been known. There must be count- 
less others about which we shall never know! . . . 

351. Romain. Holland to J. Taupin (Belgium) 

Villeneuve, 5 July 1926 

.... No, Gandhi will not be in England in the next 
few days. He is not coming to Europe; all the rumours 
are wrong. It is true that the Y.M.C.A. invited him to 
their Helsinki Congress, but he refused; he cannot leave 
India. That is where his essential and urgent task is. Can 
you imagine the Mahatma in one of those fashionable and 
semi-official European talking-shops? Life is short and the 
work is heavy; there’s no time for distractions. . . . 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


352. Romain Rolland to Paul BirukofF 

Villeneuve , 2 October 1926 

.... I am thinking about your Tolstoy Jubilee for 
10 September 1928. We must make it into a solemn world- 
wide demonstration. Of course Gandhi’s voice must be heard, 
and we must appeal to all the countries of Asia and America 
where our great friend’s thought has borne fruit. . . . 

353. Romain Rolland to Charles Baudouin 
( Switzerland) 

Villeneuve , 1 January 1927' 

.... For a religious soul, art is a thing of second- 
rate importance (if not tenth-rate). The first Christians 
weren’t in the least concerned with it. Much time was 
needed — and lukewarm water in the wine (the wine of' 
Christ which is his blood) — before they arrived at the for- 
mula of the basilicas, which in any case they borrowed 
from the infidel pagans, in purified form. Gandhi too looks, 
down rather on art. . . . 

354. Romain Rolland to Marcel Lob (France) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
17 April 1927 

Are you interested in Gandhi? He has just been very- 
ill, and is still not completely out of danger ; excessive 


Romain Rolla&d and Gandhi : Correspondence 

overwork, even by his standards. For some months he has 
been travelling all over India, inspecting everything and 
speaking to the masses. Twenty days ago he had the first 
stages of a stroke but it seems that once again his spirit 
has overcome the sickness. You have no idea of his lucid and 
continuous activity since he came out of prison. If only we 
had a guide like him in Europe. . . . 

355. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
28 April 1927 

.... I’m askmg my sister, Madeleine Rolland, to 
give you some information about Gandhi and his recent 
activities. She follows the movement much more closely 
than I do, and is in regular correspondence with Sabarmati. 

At the moment Gandhi is seriously ill. He recently 
(three weeks ago) was threatened with a stroke, right in the 
thick of things — eight or ten speeches a day to eager multi- 
tudes, several months of religious and social propaganda 
the length and breadth of India; a formidable level of acti- 
vity, without any rest. At the moment he’s obliged to rest; 
the force of his soul seems to have overcome the danger. 
But it’s a serious warning. Will he listen to it? I don’t 
know. It’s not in his habits to be ungenerous with his 
life. . . . 

Remain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


356. Romain. Rolland to Tatiana Soukhotin-Tolstoy 


Villeneuve (Vaud) Villa Olga 
24 May 1927 

.... I see that your father’s admirable letter to 
Gandhi dated 7 September 1910, is dated from Kotschetz. 
So it was under your roof, and almost under your very 
eyes, that those pages were written which will stand in all 
future times as the Gospel of Non-resistance, consecrated 
by Gandhi by the heroic action of his whole life? Have 
you any memories of it? . . . 

357. Romain Rolland to Paul Birukoff (Switzerland) 

Villeneuve , Villa Olga, 
2 June 1927 

.... Are you following Gandhi’s autobiography weekly 
in Toung Indial He has often spoken of Tolstoy with reverence. 

.... Gandhi has indeed been seriously threatened by 
the beginnings of an attack of hemiplegia. He is better 
now, but the danger is still hanging over him. He is 
overworking; these last few months he has been travelling 
all over India giving eight or ten speeches a day to thou- 
sands of people, and he cannot and will not cut down his 
activities. I also know that his great heart is suffering at 
the wretched state of his people and the struggles between 
Hindus and Muslims which are breaking out again. But 
to others he shows only his calm; he stifles his grief under 
ceaseless action. Tagore is far from playing such a large 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

role. He is not made to guide whole peoples. He is a 
very lofty thinker and artist, and he can act only on his 
peers, an ^lite extending over all ages. . . . 

358. Romain Holland to Maurice Wullens (France) 

14 June 1927 

.... As to your request, it is not of the kind that 
can be satisfactorily dealt with in a short chat. Tolstoy 
and Gandhi have written whole volumes discussing their 
doctrine point by point. (Don’t mix the name of Jesus 
with theirs; it’s too tendentious! So many contradictions 
have been heaped on his back!) . . . 

359. Romain Holland to Renee Thiesson (France) 

Villeneuve, 2 October 1927 

.... We know the scandalous book by K. Mayo, 
who is a more than suspect character. Some years ago 
this person published a Yankee propaganda book against 
the Philippines, called The Isle of Fear ) which set out to 
prove to the world that the Filipinos were abject crea- 
tures and that American domination there was a good deed 
to the world selflessly done by the virtuous United States. 
This book was widely disseminated in India. 

But note well how careful and cautious they are! Not 
one copy of the defamatory book on India has reached 
India. The Indians heard about it only through Euro- 
pean papers and reviews, and when they finally were able 
to bring it from Europe, the poison had had time to spread 
widely. Gandhi has recently made a scornful, ironic and 
calm reply, as is his wont, in Toung India. It is probable 
that the European press, now almost entirely in the pay of 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


the Anglo-Saxon financiers, will take care not to say a 
word about it, any more than they will about replies in the 
reviews of Tagore and his friends. 

Gandhi’s answer (more or less) is this: “Suppose I 
come to London and visit nothing but the slums, die bro- 
thels and clinics catering for serious illnesses, and then 
say: ‘This is England!’ would that be honourable?” (This 
reminds me of my generous friend Clara van Ende, who 
devoted herself to aid for unmarried mothers in Paris, who 
had to spend several years plunged in the deepest dregs 
of society and came out so choked with despair and disgust 
that she was never again able to reconcile herself with life 
and died a broken woman.) 

Gandhi adds that the book is teeming with errors, ac- 
cidental or otherwise. He has some to point out even 
in the account of K. Mayo’s one visit to him. Tagore 
is the victim of a more serious lie, which makes him out to 
be a supporter of child marriages. Now the Brahmo Samaj 
of which Tagore is a leader, and which was founded by 
his father, strictly forbids such marriages. Tagore ap- 
proves of people marrying young — which is not at all the 
same thing; it’s obvious that the Bengali woman is more 
precocious than her Anglo-Saxon counterpart, but it’s a 
long way from that to child marriages. (Besides, one ought 
to understand the true spirit in which really respectable 
and pious Hindus look upon child marriages, and I may 
have occasion to speak about it in a book I am preparing 
about two great Indians of our time; the girl is brought 
up in the family of her future husband, but as chastely as 
a sister, and it’s not until years afterwards that the marriage 
is consummated. The main advantage they see in this practice 
is that of making the woman share in the atmosphere of 
the house from her childhood.) In any case Gandhi can 
easily make the point that anyone who knows the respectability 
of the Santiniketan circle and of the girls and young women 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

who are brought up there can easily judge how truthful 
K. Mayo is. . . . 

360. Romain Holland to Marianne Rauze (France) 

VilleneuveiVaud ) Villa Olga 
21 November 1927 

.... Fm sending the typewritten copy to Delpeuch 
today. Do you know what I wanted to do with it? Send 
it to Gandhi. He should be one of the first to read this 
marvellous adventure. 1 He doesn’t read French, but our 
friend and his disciple Mirabai (Miss Slade) will relate 
it to him. As soon as you have a copy available, send it 
to nie, and I’ll see that he gets it. . . . 

361. Romain Holland to Paul Birukoff (Switzerland) 

Villeneuv e ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
21 December 1927 

.... I have received your kind letter. I admire 
your boldness and fidelity to the Master (to the double 
Master: our dear Leo Nicolaievich, and the greater, 
invisible Master whom we bear at the bottom of our 
hearts). I approve warmly of what you are doing. Pass 
on my fraternal greetings to your friends the Doukhobors. 
Certainly their faith in non-acceptance of violence is not 
incompatible with energy! On the contrary, it demands the 
greatest energy, and the “tender” Gandhi, as you call him, 
makes it the first condition of his Satyagraka. You know 

1 The story of the Berthallon brothers, told by Marianne Rauze 
(see the exchange of letters between Romain Rolland, Gandhi and Miss 
Slade). Romain Rolland wrote a preface to the text. 

Romain Roll and to Foreign Correspondents 


that he has several times repeated that he prefers the violent 
who are bold and sincere to the non-violent who are 
cowardly and hypocritical. Force is the first condition of 
all virtue, but after that the main thing is to know how to 
direct it. . . . 

362. Romain Rolland to J. Taupin (Belgium) 

Villeneuve, 5 March 1928 

.... Why don’t you and the rest of you interested in 
India get together and take out a subscription to Gandhi’s 
weekly paper Young India ? You’d find there all the infor- 
mation you want, and the answers to your questions of 
conscience. You could even discuss them with Gandhi if 
the occasion arose. 

Gandhi is still being followed by millions of men, and 
he hasn’t stopped travelling about India in all directions, 
preaching his immutable doctrine of non-violence. But it’s 
natural enough that you aren’t told about him by the impe- 
rialist European press or by the Bolshevik press; when it 
comes to lying, neither of them has anything to learn from 
the other. 

Gandhi no longer operates on the political level, but 
on the religious and human level. This hasn’t stopped 
him from giving public approbation to the Indian hartal 
on the arrival of the Commission. 

He was seriously ill again last month, on his return 
from one of his tiring journeys across India (excessive arte- 
rial tension) and he is still obliged to be very careful; 
which hasn’t stopped him from writing me a long letter in 
these last few days about the French conscientious objec- 
tors, the Berthallon brothers. There’s a risk that he may 
die suddenly in harness, but he has been expecting that for a 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

long time. So have we; we are all mortal. But thought 
does not die. 

You were wrong not to write to Miss Slade, of course 
not for motives of “profane curiosity”, as you put it, but 
for the general questions which are worrying you. I’m 
sure she would have sent jou her master’s reply. . . . 

363. Romain. Rolland to Ferenc Hugai (Hungary) 

Villeneuve , 8 March 1928 

.... I have received a long and interesting letter 
from Gandhi in the last few days. Although he has recently 
been seriously ill and has to take great precautions (he’s 
suffering from excessive arterial tension, resulting from his 
uninterrupted activities and an exhausting journey across 
India), it is possible that he may come to Europe this 
summer. . . . 

364. Romain Rolland to George Lenard (Austria) 1 

8 March 1928 

.... Read, at the head of Mire et Fils, the motto by 
Spinoza, which is valid not only for the whole of this book, 
but for all my books and all my life: 

Pax enim non belli privatio , 

Sed virtus est, quae ex animi fortitudine oritur. 

1 Remain Rolland’ s Diary : A young Viennese, George Lenard, pupil 
in the Bundesreformrealgymnasium VIII, 8. Klasse, Vienna, has 
chosen as a subject for his baccalaur4at thesis: “Rom. Roll, during the Great 
War”, and he sends me a copy of his work (in French) (2 March). 
Quite an attentive summary of my articles and wartime writings; it 
does not go very far, but one cannot expect more of a schoolboy. I 
write to thank him. 

Remain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


And if one day you have the chance to read the book by 
Gandhi called La jeune Inde , to which I have written an 
introduction, you will see what Gandhi and I understand 
by “Peace” and “ Non-violence ”. . . . 

(“Non-violence is a means of combat — the sword of self- 
sacrifice. . . . What nonsense to have ever been able to 
confuse this paroxysm of action with the sheep-like face of the 
passive pacifists! . . . There is less distance between Gan- 
dhi’s non-violence and the violence of the revolutionaries 
who frankly oppose him than there is between heroic non- 
acceptance and the servile ataraxia of the eternal acceptors, 
who form the reinforcement of all tyrannies and the cement 
of all reactions. . . .”) 

365. Romain Rolland to Alphonse de Chateaubriant 


Villeneuve, 17 March 1928 

.... We are still planning to make a little pilgrimage 
to Morvan and the Nivernais when spring reaches its height 
in mid-May. But our plans may be changed by the arrival 
of distant friends; one of our most charming Japanese, and 
perhaps also Gandhi. But this is not certain. . . . 

366. Romain Rolland to Marcel Martinet (France) 

Villeneuve, 12 April 1928 

.... Gandhi has indeed said he’d like to come and 
see me soon, and this may change my plans completely. I 
must add (however odd it may seem) that I haven’t en- 
couraged him to come. I see he has formed an inexact 
idea of me, and I don’t want to disappoint him. We have 
mutual friends, such as his principal disciple Mirabehn 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

(Miss Slade), whose enthusiasm makes her a little too blind 
to understand fully; in her burning desire to bring us to- 
gether, she has portrayed me too much in the image of the 
Mahatma. On the other hand, a correspondence over the 
last few months in which I 5 ve firmly held out against Gan- 
dhi, as X can’t accept the explanations he insists on giving 
publicly of his participation in the 1914 war, has inspir- 
ed in Gandhi an intense desire to talk with me until we 
have thoroughly sorted out the question. (He’s infinitely 
more attracted by people who resist or criticize him than 
by those who acquiesce in his judgment.) But he ima- 
gines that I am, as he is, devoted to the religious and social 
service of humanity, to the sole cause of peace, and that 
my whole activity and thought are directed towards this 
aim. He doesn’t see that though I make a place for it in 
my life’s work, the centre of my life is beyond. I’m keep- 
ing my own Western head firmly on my shoulders, and for me, 
my portion, my first duty and my great role is to see and 
understand — friend and enemy alike. Goethe is as important 
to me as Christ or Krishna. Gandhi must not make the 
journey to Switzerland to come up against what Suares, 
referring to Ibsen, called the “glaciers of intelligence”. Maybe 
the sun shining on them is the same sun that shines on the 
Indus, but Sanyasins. still risk catching colds in it. 

(I really am being disrespectful! ... Yet my heart is 
not so, and I revere the sancta sinceritas of the Mahatma. 
But this is just the point; I don’t consider myself worthy 
of him.) . . . 

Remain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


367. Romam Holland to Paul Geheeb (Switzerland) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
7 May 1928 

.... I have been, corresponding with Gandhi recently, 
and he did indeed think about coming to Europe, but I 
believe he is having to give up his plans. . . . 

368. Romam Rolland to B. De Ligt (Netherlands) 

Villeneuve, 4 July 1928 

.... Thank you for your package; I had already 
read your open letter to Gandhi in Evolution. Since I share 
your feelings about Gandhi’s attitude in the last war, I 
have been arguing with him about it by letter for the last 
five or six months; Gandhi was even on the point last 
month of coming to Villeneuve so that together we could 
sort out this problem which is close to his heart; everything 
was ready for the journey when unforeseen events — the 
death of his right-hand man in the Satyagraha Ashram — 
forced him to postpone the project until next year. 

Perhaps you are not following his weekly review Young 
India (published in Ahmedabad), in which he is telling the 
true story of his life and examining it; three or four months 
ago he came to that decision in 1914, over which he has 
difficulty in giving up his point ( at that date and in the 
circumstances in which he took the decision), although he 
now condemns all participation in war; near or far, in fact 
or in spirit. We are not the only ones to be surprised at 
this contradiction, although I am more aware than most 


Ro mai n Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

of the mentality of great Indian religious thinkers, to whom 
absolute non-resistance must be a heroic act of heroic 

souls, without which it will be nothing. For a genuinely 
heroic soul like Vivekananda (whose life story I am at 

present writing), non-resistance is forbidden to anyone who 
hypocritically slips the slightest cowardly thought into it. For 
the question of the conscience, or perhaps one should say 
the salvation of the soul, has a much greater place in their 
thought than that of material social progress, for their 
concerns are those of the director of conscience. War is 
detestable in their eyes less for its ravages on the battle- 
field than for those it makes in the human heart. 

M. K. Gandhi’s present address is at Sabaimati (Satya- 
graha Ashram), Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Since he has been 
seriously ill and is overloaded with work, he is not likely 
to read an article written in French himself (he doesn’t 
read much more than English). You could send the article 
care of Mirabehn, which is the religious name (same address) 
of his best disciple and our friend, an Englishwoman' whose 
real name is Miss Madeleine Slade, daughter of an English 
admiral, who has been converted to Gandhi’s faith and 
is devoted to his service, a remarkable woman both in 
heart and mind. . . . 

369 . Romain Holland to James H. Powers (U.SjV.) 

Grand Hotel— Rigi-Kaltbad 
11 August 1928 

.... You have seen recently how the Schubert cele- 
brations were travestied into official demonstrations of 
renascent pan-Germanism. 

Also, Gandhi’s delegate of the Sonntagsberg Congress, 
his friend Rajendra Prasad, who is his best lieutenant in 
“Non-co-operation”, has just been beaten up in Graz by 

Romain RoIIand to Foreign Correspondents 


Austrian nationalists, who at the same time knocked out 
the wife of a Graz teacher with whom he was staying. I 
saw him a day or so ago ; he came to visit me in Rigi-Kalt- 
bad, and he had a deep wound on his forehead. But 
that’s another matter; the Indian Gandhists don’t need our 
pity or our encouragement, and they don’t ask for them. 
They are used to heroic patience. Their calm faith will 
conquer all. . . . 

370. Ro main Holland, to Toshikiko Katayama (Japan) 

Rigi-Kaltbad, 15 August 1928 

.... I am alone and working, or dreaming, on my 
Vivekananda. (I’ve just today finished his life story; I still 
have to look at the body of his religious thought and juxta- 
pose it with ours.) I have no one to talk to; I’ve only 

had a visit a few days ago from two Indians, one of whom, 

Rajendra Prasad, is one of Gandhi’s chief lieutenants, in the 
Non-co-operation movement; a handsome Bihari (Bengali) 
type, proud and refined. They were both co ming from a 
world Congress of the International Teague of War Resis- 
ters (a vast association embracing all lands and all parties, 
whose general secretariat is in England); this Congress took 
place near Vienna, and on the way back, at Graz in Aus- 
tria, Prasad was half killed, completely without reason, by 
nationalists — Austrian Fascists, who hate him as the repre- 
sentative of Gandhi. When I saw him he had a deep 

scar on his forehead. I imagine the early Christians must 

have aroused the same savage hatred. . . . 


Romain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspondence 

371. Romain Rolland to Beatrice Aram (Netherlands) 

Villeneuve , 22 September 1928 

.... Tagore did not come to Europe, as had been 
rumoured; his heart was giving him too much trouble to 
allow him to leave India. But I saw his son and his charm- 
ing daughter-in-law, with their little adopted girl who sang 
and danced one of “grandpa’s” poems — lots of other Indians, 
too, including one of Gandhi’s best friends and lieutenants, 
sent by him as a delegate to a Congress of “War Resisters” 
in Austria, who’d been attacked in Graz and beaten across 
the face by a band of Austrian Fascist nationalists: he had 
a deep wound on his forehead. Such is the welcome given 
by European civilization to Asian barbarity I (You know 
that at the last Congress of the Second Internationale this 
spring, the European Socialists classified the oppressed 
peoples into three categories of worthiness or unworthiness 
> — the first of which, of course, is far below the Europeans — 
and put India in the second category, not yet sufficiently 
evolved to have the right to emancipation ! You can see 
there the influence of MacDonald and his Labourites!) . . . 

372. Romain Rolland to Jeanne Ghallaye (France) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
25 November 1928 

.... Do you know that Lajpat Rai, the great poli- 
tical leader of the Indian Swarajist party who died re- 
cently, was very probably murdered? In any case he’d 
been wounded seriously in the region of the heart some 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


days before his death. And it wasn’t in a dispute between 
Hindus and Muslims, as several Muslims were also attacked, 
apparently at the same time, by government agents. 

The English press is keeping silence and throwing 
flowers over the corpse. Our first really reliable report was 
from Gandhi. 

This will make the December Congress an extremely 
violent affair. 

Lajpat Rai, the first to be arrested during the Bengali 
insurrection of 1905 (whose arrest at that date sparked off 
an era of terrorism) could well by his death give the signal 
for the great uprising. . . . 

373. Romain Rolland to Claude Salives (Switzerland) 

Villeneuve, Christmas 1928 

.... It’s so easy to repeat: “The Orient sleeps!” 

When I wrote my Gandhi , for thirty years already Gan- 
dhi had been fighting, suffering and conquering; our Indo- 
logists knew it, but were careful not to say anything about 
it! Then when I did speak about it, they resented it and 
they still haven’t forgiven me. 

For a century now there have been heroes and saints 
initiating and controlling an immense spiritual movement 
in India. Who has there been to tell us about it? 

A month ago, India’s greatest political leader, Lajpat 
Rai, a man who sacrificed everything to his people (I 
knew him here in Switzerland) was murdered by the Bri- 
tish police. Where was the newspaper to make us realize 
the seriousness of the event and its immense repercussions 
all over India, now on the brink of declaring her inde- 
dendence? . . . 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

374. Remain Holland to Pastor Henri Roser 

2 November 1929 

.... It is of the highest importance that a spiritual 
group as pure as yours should have arrived at this neces- 
sary admission of the fact of class warfare , in which the capi- 
talist system is the aggressor , and the moral obligation facing all 
men of upright conscience to take the side of the oppressed classes . 
Your decision, maturely thought out and stated in glowing 
terms, will be of great weight in the balance of the future; 
it will sway the undecided souls to whom the phrase class 
warfare was the frightening synonym of civil war and who 
thus passively left it to “Caesar” to control human society, 
without heeding that social justice and the dignity of the 
human personality, insulted, outraged and crushed by the 
present system, are in the province, not of “ Caesar ”, but 
of “God”' — I mean the SouL I have no need to add that, 
like you, I am convinced that the supreme weapon in the 
necessary fight for the creation of a juster society and a 
better humanity is heroic Non-violence , the most victorious 
examples of which are set by Gandhi. And this Non-vio- 
lence implies a power of love and selflessness of which volun- 
tary poverty and individual renunciation form the surest shield 
against that scourge of the modern age, that blind principle 
of demoralization and destruction, which is called Money. . . . 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


375. Romain Rolland to Jacques Mesnil (France) 

November 1929 

.... India is not lacking in heroes ready for com- 
plete self-sacrifice, but a few thousand heroes do not make 
up for lack of organization, and I fear that the struggle 
for independence may be anarchical (in the worst sense of 
the word). The only moral authority dominating the coun- 
try is Gandhi, but he may well disappear in the first mas- 
sacre (and perhaps he’ll do nothing to avoid it). In any 
case, Jawaharlal Nehru is a character of proven nobility 
and great purity. I know him fairly well; he’s been to 
Villeneuve. As long as Gandhi is beside him, he will be 
the best leader of the independence movement. Left to 
himself, his very impressionable, generous and violent na- 
ture may lead him to do something imprudent. What he 
needs is not to be stimulated, as you think, but to be mode- 
rated (which does not mean diluted!) . . . 

376. Romain Rolland to Andre Snares (France) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
4 March 1930 

.... You judge Vivekananda’s and Gandhi’s faces 
very well from their portraits. But this gives you an exam- 
ple of how impossible it is for portraits to render the 
extraordinary fascination of certain faces. It’s particu- 
larly striking with Gandhi; there’s not one person I know 
who’s seen him who hasn’t said that the first impression he 
gives is of absolute ugliness and insignificance, then in 


Romara Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

one brief moment he overwhelms you by the spirit which 
lights up his eyes and impregnates the least little folds of 
his skin — it’s a real case of fascination. And it’s once and 
for all; I don’t know one person who’s been able to escape 
from it afterwards. The same goes for Vivekananda, 
except that he captivated people by something regal and 
Handelian about him, whereas Gandhi conquers by disarming 
calm. I should love to see and judge for myself that 
toothless smile which must be such a curious marriage 
of Voltairean irony and the tenderness of St. Francis. (For 
there’s a strong dose of mischief in the dear man! If I 
had to write his portrait again, there’d be plenty of 
touches to add which I’ve since acquired. No one observes 
souls more sharply, or facts more exactly.) . . . 

Romain Holland to Eugen Relgis (Rumania) 

Villeneuve , 29 April 1930 

.... In general what seems to me most urgent, as 
also to Pierre Doyen, Han Ryner, Einstein, Delpeuch and 
Stefan Zweig, is to set aside all doctrines for the time being 
and come to an agreement on a precise action , a collective 
“JVo”/ For war is an action, not a doctrine, and when it 
breaks out there will be no time for Byzantine discussions 
on the sex of the angels. We shall have to say “Tesl” 
or 5 Wo!” to war on the spot, and thereby accept all the 
terrible consequences for ourselves and those closest to us. 

But before accepting them we first ought to have fore- 
seen them, and this is what, to my knowledge, no one 
has yet done — perhaps because no one dares to. We 
must not delude ourselves, or confine ourselves to vague 
speculations. We should look at precise cases for each 
of the peoples concerned, asking for example: “Suppose 
the Fascist Italian armies invade and devastate Southern 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


France; suppose their air force bombs and destroys cities 
(or, for the Italians, the same case the other way round), 
what should we do?” I have no doubt about the replies 
of Gandhi, Birukoff, BulgakofF, Premysl, Fitter, etc. But 
what about the rest, those who are not supported by a 
religious sentiment of any kind?. . . 

We ought to free ourselves from abstract questions, 
and confront our minds with the cruellest possibilities which 
they try to avoid thinking about. Pacifist mobilization 
needs extensive preliminary intellectual exercises, so as to 
rehearse the parts to be played. 

.... Gandhi’s text was misread. The illegible word 
was not “not” , but “that”. The meaning of the sentence 
(which should not be divided by a full stop) is “ that 
world peace is impossible as long as the exploited nations are not 
free”. . . . 

378. Romain Holland to Charles-Marie Garnier 


Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
11 May 1930 

.... I imagine that those to whom we first turn in 
other races are those who turn to us. Gandhi and Viveka- 
nanda, though being of the essence of old India, have 
absorbed much from the West. We can recognize our- 
selves in them. . . . 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

379. Romain Rolland to Jacques Mesnil (France) 


Wednesday, 17 September 1930 

.... Plenty of visitors at the moment; among them 
our Indian friends, Tagore and Kalidas Nag. The latter 
tells me that Sylvain L4vi hasn’t forgiven me for my 
Vivekananda any more than he has for my Gandhi. He wants 
to keep India in the museums and the archives; all life 
forbidden! Not that it needs his permission. . . . 

380. Romain Rolland to Reginald Reynolds 
(Great Britain) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
19 September 1930 

.... I was very pleased to receive your letter. I 
know you by your messages from India, which we received 
and which my sister read to me (unfortunately I do not 
read English well). We liked their forceful frankness, pene- 
trating eye and sense of humour. You have done good 
work, and I know from G. F. Andrews that you are carrying 
on in England. It is sad, but understandable, that the 
truth is having so much trouble to make itself known. The 
British economy has got so used to living off the exploita- 
tion of India that it has become almost impossible to 
break away from it without causing possibly mortal suffer- 
ings to the whole present social state. In these circum- 
stances, people prefer to hide their heads under a stone, 
like the ostrich, and pretend that they see nothing. Which 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


means that they’ll be all the more harshly driven into the 
wall at the hour of reckoning; it’s the “Dike” of iniquity. 
Once you’re caught in its snare, you can’t break away; 
you have to pay, and all too often the innocent pay for the 
guilty. I know that Gandhi’s generous mind is concerned 
at this inextricable situation, and that he would have 
liked to spare England the material trials he foresees for 
her. But the blind ostrich won’t let him. 

I have the same conception of Peace as yourself. My 
motto, written at the head of the latest volume of my 
novel, Mere et Fils , is Spinoza’s strong words: 

Pax enim non belli privatio, 

Sed virtus est, quae ex animi fortitudine oritur. 

The “pacifism” of “good people” (It’s not very much 
to be “good people”! What we need is “brave people”) 
is fatal to all virtues, and above all else to energy, the 
mother of them all — energy of thought which does not 
evade the issue and dares to be sincere with itself — and 
energy of the will which dares to say what It believes to be 
true, and to act on what it says. 

The emasculated “pacifist” movement has allowed itself 
to be taken in by the deceptive mask of today’s demo- 
cratic states, who are ruining their peoples producing 

armaments for the most ferocious of wars. This mask must 
be torn away; no dealings are possible with hypocrisy! 

Frank violence is worth more than that; it is healthier 

even when it kills. 

It is infinitely regrettable that your “great leader” 
couldn’t visit Europe, as he thought of doing in 1928, 
before beginning the great struggle for India. I wish he 
could have made contact with our best Europeans and worked 
out with them some principles for action, and above all 
means of applying them, appropriate to the conditions and 
character of the West. Maybe you could think about collecting 
and editing a Gospel of action for Europe, along with 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Andrews, based on Gandhi’s latest writings (his discussions 
in Young India and his continuing meditations, which 
seem to have matured and clarified his thought further 
over the last five or six years). 

It’s no use shutting him up in a prison; his spirit is 
and always will be present among those who know him 
— like the spirit of the Man who came to sit at table with 
his disciples in Emmaus. You will bear the reflection of 
his halo upon you for the whole of your life. Pass it on! 
That is your portion. 

I shall send you a few words 1 for Mahatmaji’s birth- 
day. Please add my name to yours on the telegram you 
send him. You could also add that of the venerable Paul 
BirukofF, the faithful friend and devout secretary of Tolstoy. 

.... He always keeps Gandhi’s portrait above his 
bed, facing that of Tolstoy. Make a point of sending 
him your excellent little brochure, and if you have any 
more copies available, please send a few to my sister, Made- 
leine Rolland (same address as mine). She could use them, 
on the one hand for the archives of her Women’s Inter- 
national League for Peace and Liberty (French section), 
and on the other for the “French Satyagrahists”. In general 
it would be worthwhile to send my sister the published 
documentation on India as it appears (except Young 
India , which she takes regularly), as she could pass it on in 
France to the small groups most eager to help the cause. 

1 See item no. 158. 

Remain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


381. Romain Rolland to Albert Einstein (Germany) 

Villenmve ( Vaud) Villa Olga 
12 October 1930 

.... Nothing seems to me more appropriate ' to the 
celebration of one of India’s spiritual leaders than to 
express, as you wish to do, our moral adhesion to the princi- 
ple of non-acceptance without violence, which in our 
civilizaiion is translated into the refusal of military service. 

You know that this is my conviction as well. I should 
merely like to be sure that we never forget, and we never 
let those who listen to us forget, that in our violent 
Europe, on the eve of a new attack of delirium tiemens , this 
refusal has, or will have, self-sacrifice as a necessary conse- 
quence. Those over whom we have spiritual charge must 
not be allowed to form illusions on the strength of our 
words; they must realize that we are leading them to almost 
certain martyrdom. If they agree to this, then so do we. 
In our hard human life, martyrdom is almost always the 
necessary stage through which reason must pass in order 
to progress into the world of facts. . . . 

382. Romain Rolland to Blanche Metayer (France) 

Villeneuve (Vaud) Villa Olga 
21 October 1930 

.... Here is a leaflet from the Friends of India. If 
you are interested in the present movement, I would en- 
courage you to fill in the little form and join this group. 
It includes Gandhi’s noblest and sincerest European friends. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Write and mention my name to the secretary, Reginald 
Reynolds, now back from India, where he took part in the 

Apart from Gandhi’s little weekly review, Toung India , 
which we can now receive only secretly, you could sub- 
scribe to the excellent monthly review of Ramananda 
Chatterjee, The Modern Review, 210-3 Cornwallis Street, 
Calcutta. Although its main concerns are literary and 
philosophical, it carries a great deal of information about 
events in India. 

I have every confidence in the success of the great 
struggle. India will conquer her independence; of that 
there is no doubt. But there will be many sufferings on both 
sides. The Labour Government doesn’t understand what’s 
happening, and is blindly obstinate. . . . 

383. Romain Rolland to £. Liechti (Switzerland) 

Villeneave, 14 November 1930 

.... I read this in the “Confession of faith by a recent 
convert to Christian anti-militarism” (No. 25 of La Revolu- 
tion Pacifique ) : 

“Mahatma Gandhi was not originally a Christian. . . 
but I learn with joy that he has become a Christian. . . .” 

This is wrong. Gandhi is not a Christian and will never 
be one, although he has a profound respect for Christianity; 
he formally disapproves of all conversions from one’s native 
faith to another, and his own remains Hinduism. 

Here are some extracts from a categorical declaration 
which he made at the meeting of the Council of the Fede- 
ration of International Fellowships at Sabarmati on 13-15 
January 1928, which I quote in my work. La Vie de Viveka- 
nanda et VEvangile Universel, Vol. II, pp. 154-156: 

Ro ma i n Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


“All religions are almost as dear to me as my own 
Hinduism. . . . The thought of conversion is impossible. 
. . . The object of the Fellowships ought to be to help a 
Hindu to be a better Hindu, a Muslim to become a better 
Muslim, a Christian to become a better Christian. . . . 

“We must eliminate from us any secret pride which 
would tell us that our religion is the truest and that the 
others are less so. . . . Our attitude towards other religions 
ought to be absolutely frank and sincere. Our prayer for 
others ought never to be: ‘God, give them the light Thou 
hast given to me!’ but ‘Give them all the light and truth 
they need for their higher development. . . .’ If some 
persons think that they ought to change their religious 
‘etiquette’ by conversion, I cannot deny that they are free 
to do so, but I am sorry to see it .” 1 

There’s no room for ambiguity in such a declaration. 
We can say, if we like, that the Hindu Gandhi is closer to 
Christ in heart and spirit than the degenerate Christians 
of today, but we have no right to make him into a 
convert. . . . 

384. Romain Rolland to Pierre Ceresole (Switzerland) 

30 November 1930 

.... There is nothing more in humanity’s interest at 
this moment than the recovery of its faith in an incarnate, 
real, living ideal, an ideal which can be seen, touched and 
watched as it works. And this can only be the work of 
six, five, four, three, two, perhaps even only one “just 
man” of Israel, as long as he is without compromise and 
follows through his “justice” to the end — a man who is not 
content to speak and write about it, but who will act it, 

1 Published m La Revolution Pacifique, No. 26, 1930 


Ramain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

will live and (better still) die for it. It is in this respect 
that Gandhi is good; Christ was better, but there’s no saying 
that Gandhi will not emulate him. He’s not lacking in the 
calm will power necessary for it. . . . 

385. Romain Rolland to Runham Brown (Great Britain) 

20 February 1931 

.... It must be said clearly and without illusions: 
There is no practical means of abolishing war promptly other than 
abolishing the present system of society and government which 
generates warsl In practice, the revolutionaries are right; 
a social revolution is necessary. And this revolution must be 
international or nothing. 

This is not to say that the principle of non-violence 
must be abandoned! Our great guide M. K. Gandhi has 
proved to the world that non-acceptance without violence can be 
the most effective means of revolutionary action. But for 
this effectiveness to be real and powerful, it needs to be, 
as in India, collective and vigorously organized ; and in this 
respect Europe is still not out of the kindergarten. But it’s 
never too late to learn. Let War Resisters International 
organize itself in a military way! (Why should I be afraid 
to use the word? Non-violence is the greatest of battles.) 1 . . . 

386. Romain. Rolland to Edmond Privat (Switzerland) 

Villeneuve , Friday, 6 March 1931 

.... Believe me, all these problems have been nag- 
ging at my mind for the last ten years or more; it’s not 

1 Reply to a questionnaire about a declaration by Albert Ein- 
stein to the New History Society of New York, 14 December 1930. 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


for nothing that I can’t sleep. Hardly a week goes by when 
I am not called upon to give some advice about one or 
another burning issue arising from the difficult situations 
and terrifyingly complex duties facing us today. It’s un- 
fortunate that my ill-health doesn’t allow me to speak in 
public, also that I have not been able to find a team of 
helpers and companions in France. Just think (I can see 
it more clearly after a close re-reading cf Gandhi’s Experi- 
ments with Truth ) of the thirty years of groping behind these 
Experiments, carried on ceaselessly and openly, with the help 
of small armies of friends and disciples discussing their 
problems of conscience with him publicly in his journal! 
How could we hope to sort out our even more complicated 
problems in a few brief conversations! 

I say “more complicated” because Gandhi was con- 
cerned above all with India, and from that point of view 
the situation was relatively simple — how much more simple 
than the one presented to us by the terrible political, social, 
moral and religious complexities of Europe and the world 
today! . . . 

387. Romain Holland to Edmond Privat (Switzerland) 

Saturday, 7 March 1931 

.... Another thing, don’t forget when you talk about 
Gandhi that with him, too. Truth dominates even Ahimsa ! 
Don’t cover up- the breath of combat running through his 
whole life which not only made him recruit soldiers for 
England as late as 1918, even when Andrews had denounced 
her iniquitous secret pacts to him, but still today makes 
him advise his Indians: “If you are not sincerely and loyal- 
ly non-violent, if you have non-violence on your lips but 
violence in the depths of your hearts, then it is better to 


Romain RoJland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

be frankly violent! Go out and fight! That way you will 
be nearer to Truth.” 

Whatever we think or do, we must maintain in our- 
selves and those close to us- the atmosphere of heroic 
truth, with no blurring of the outlines! . . . 

388. Romain Rolland to Camille Rouge (France) 

Villeneuve (Vaud) Villa Olga 
12 March 1931 

.... I have just read the French editions of Gan- 
dhi’s Autobiography, which is to be published by Rieder, and 
I have written a long preface to it. I recommend you to 
read this holy work — this breviary of the “Search for Truth” 
in the midst of action. I think it will do for many souls 
of today what was done for so many souls in the past by 
the Imitation of Jesus Christ . . . . 

389. Romain Rolland to Charles Baudouin (Switzerland) 

Villeneuve, 14 March 1931 

.... My dear friend, please don’t believe that I 
approve of violence! That I never shall. But there are 
many things in the universe which I’m forced to accept 
without approving of them — starting perhaps with life it- 
self, since destiny forces us to live by killing other forms 
of life. If I were in control of the circumstances, the 
whole problem of present action would be, for me, how to 
marry Non-violence with Revolution; and my recent read- 
ing of Gandhi’s Autobiography (I’m doing a preface for the 
French edition), a wonderful breviary of reason and action, 
has proved to me that such a union is possible and fruitful 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


in certain conditions. We must seek to bring about these condi- 
tions in Europe; but they won’t be brought about in a 
hurry, and meanwhile I’m forced to see the facts — and 
the great conflict building up between the two camps. (No 
more than two! This is clear-cut. The other distinctions 
are fading away every day.) And my reason agrees with 
my heart in telling me which of the camps I must espouse 
in its claims and its hopes. Am I to remain prudently 
silent and stand aside to watch, then flourish the victor’s 
rosette when fate has decided the outcome? That’s not 
for me! . . . 

390. Romain Roliand to Edmond Privat (Switzerland) 

5 May 1931 

.... You know that a few years ago Gandhi was on 
the point of coming to Switzerland. He was more or less 
waiting for my reply before he decided, as he wanted to 
meet me. You may well imagine how much I wanted it 
too! But I still thought it better to dissuade him. I should 
have liked him to come with the clear intention of making 
contact with the young people of Europe who support 
non-resistance, so that he could listen to them and give 
them guidance, not just so that he could talk with me; I 
didn’t feel myself worthy of him, and I knew he was har- 
bouring illusions about me, fostered no doubt by our mutual 
friend “Mirabehn”. I didn’t feel I had the right to take 
up even a few days of his precious life, which belongs to 
his people and the whole of humanity. In addition, Gandhi 
wasn’t in the least tempted by the prospect of exchanging 
ideas with the youth of Europe. He’s a prudent nature 
who goes one step at a time and acts as if he believed in 
the old proverb that “a bird in the hand is worth two in 
the bush”, and he has always refused to intervene in the 


Ro main Holland and Gandhi * Correspondence 

problems of Europe before those of India were settled. 

It still remains true, though, that even at that date — and 
how much more so today! — I felt it indispensable that this 
confrontation of Gandhi with Europe should take place — 
and today I should feel more qualified and less unworthy 
to talk about it with Gandhi. 

Gandhi’s doctrine of faith and action is holy, and it 
has triumphantly proved its effectiveness in India. In my 
last article in Europe (15 April) I dwelt on this point again. 
But it is not an “Absolute” (he himself doesn’t see it as 
such; remember what he has written about his experiments 
always being relative in character, even those closest to his 
heart). Neither is India an “Absolute”. The great question 
today for all of us who are sincere and selfless seekers 
after truth is to decide how to reapply the Indian experi- 
ment to Europe (and the world). 

The basis of the faith, for me, remains inviolate. This is 
Love — love in the sense of Caritas, not abstract or sentimental, 
but active', love for the good of other creatures, and the conse- 
cration of the self to the service of the community. Ahimsa is 
one of the sublimest expressions of this, and Gandhi’s Non- 
acceptance, his organized Civil Resistance, is at present the finest 
tactical form of it available to humanity. 

What we now have to decide is whether it meets the 
needs of present action in Europe, — and, in a general way, 
in any country which is not naturally adapted to it, as 
India is, by special conditions of religious thought and age- 
old traditions of social life. I’m merely asking the question, 
not prejudging the answer or answers. 

I should like it to be possible at the next International 
Congress of Non-resistance ( a deplorable phrase which I 
wish we could wipe out of our minds, but it’s left its mark, 
even when our thoughts protest and cry out the very op- 
posite — resistance of the soul to the endl ). — I should like it to 
be possible for Gandhi to intervene at that Congress, as 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


no doubt he’ll be in Europe at the time, and thus have the 
problem fully discussed. But I’m afraid Gandhi’s obsession 
with the Indian political question, his fatigue and his 
instinctive distaste for tackling European problems will all 
prevent my wish from coming true. 

And yet . . . and yet! . . . How useful it would 
be, even for Gandhi, to broaden his horizon at this hour! 
What he’s published recently about the questions of class 
and the proletarian struggle shows that he’s almost comp- 
letely unaware of the new phase which the world has 
entered as it goes its bleeding way. All he sees before him 
is the inequality of classes in a patriarchal society in which 
there is room for brotherly fellowship; capitalism appears to 
him in the form of the great mill-owners of Ahmedabad, 
worthy and pious people, open to the influence of his words 
and keeping in contact with their workers. He has had no 
dealings with the new faceless and heartless power of Money, 
large anonymous companies, international consortiums, 
blind monsters much more terrible than the “Machine” 
against which Tagore and Gandhi have shot so many use- 
less arrows, — for Money is the invisible Machine, and it 
is this which today commands States and public opinion. 
Gan our tactics be the same against a tyrant, however fero- 
cious, against several hundred princelings (ministers and 
representatives of a nation), against even a whole people 
of flesh and blood, — as they need to be against forces with- 
out a face, without a name, without anything human left 
about them? 

Then, again, what a lot of problems there are in the 
application of absolute non-violence! Its personal application 
(I mean on our own behalf and at our own expense) is only 
the smallest aspect of the question. When it comes down 
to it, it’s not really difficult for men of our sort to sacri- 
fice ourselves to what we believe to be true! But what about 
sacrificing other people? Is this sacrifice in itself not an act of 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

violence ? And does not non-violence imply thousands of sacri- 
fices in advance? It’s all very well for those with the will 
and the conscience, but what about those who haven’t been 
consulted, the unconscious, the “innocent”? I haven’t the 
time to go into details here, but I keep coming back to those 
three little girls in Upton Sinclair (at the end of his novel 
Oil), thrown into a vat of boiling coffee. ... If you had 
been there, what would you have done? And what would 
you do to prepare against the imminent visit of a punitive 
expedition? The European supporters of non-violence 
really must be in possession of a firm doctrine, evolved from 
conscientious discussions and trials, so as to be ready for 
all eventualities in the harsh and cruel years of large-scale 
conflict which are the straits through which the march of 
humanity is fated to pass. If they allow themselves to be 
taken unawares, they will founder in the depths of des- 
pair, which will leave them either discouraged or as fero- 
cious as all the rest. Nothing must be left to chance. 

Perhaps you will understand now why I believed it 
necessary to sound the alarm to wake up the over-placid 
“non-violent” I May I add that over the last ten years I 
have gradually become disgusted at the sight of certain of 
my friends among the French intellectuals, too easily con- 
tented with their comfortable “non-violent” attitude and 
casually making non-committal protests by putting their 
signatures to inoffensive newspaper petitions, without com- 
promising anything of their nice calm bourgeois situation! 
— Although I’m incapable of dipping my hands in violence 
on my own account, when I compare the attitude of these 
white-handed Pharisees to that of a Lenin, risking his life 
and risking bringing down infamy and curses on himself 
in order to tear millions of the oppressed out of the hell 
in which they lived, the latter seems to me not only more 
virile, but even more genuinely loving, more in conformity 
with the inner law of sacrifice in the service of humanity! 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


If he made mistakes, they sprang from his mind, not 
his heart; but his mind was confronted with the need for 
immediate action. He had to act, and not acting was in 
itself a form of action (as Krylenko proved to thousands of 
workers in Petrograd in the October Days — see John Reed’s 
fine book 1 ), as it meant leaving action to the worst elements. 
What the present hour needs is a watchword for action. 
Come together and discuss it I First you must be thoroughly 
familiar with it and agree to disseminate it. . . . 

391. Romain Rolland to Charles Bernard (Switzerland) 

Villeneuve, 26 May 1931 

.... Apart from my personal work, I have recently 
written quite a long introduction to Gandhi’s Autobiography , 
for the abridged French edition which has been published 
by Rieder in Paris. I recommend you to get hold of this 
book, in which one of the world’s great leaders reveals 
himself with absolute sincerity and not a shade of vanity. . . . 

392. Romain Rolland to Abbe Alfred Martin (Belgium) 

18 July 1931 

.... Above all I would recommend you to read 
Gandhi’s admirable Autobiography (or more accurately. 
Story of My Experiments with Truth) . A good abridged edition 
has appeared in French translation two months ago, pub- 
lished by Rieder in Paris, 7 Place Saint-Sulpice, with quite 
a long introduction by me. 

I have also written a preface to a collection of Gandhi’s 

1 Ten Days that Shook the World 


Remain Roll and and Gandhi : Correspo nd enc e 

articles published a few years ago by Stock, under the tide, 
La jeime Inde. 

This last title (meaning Young India) is that of the 
weekly journal which for ten years or more Gandhi has 
been publishing and writing, almost entirely by himself, at 
Ahmedabad — ceaselessly in direct contact with his people, 
discussing things with them and directing them. . . . 

393. Romain Holland to Lucien Price (U.S.A.) 

Lugano , Park Hotel 
Wednesday , 12 August 1931 

. . . . I shall stay in Ticino until the beginning of 
September, unless I’m called back by Gandhi’s arrival as he 
passes through Villeneuve. (He intends to come and see us 
either coming or going, and Madeleine is already thinking 
about renting the goat which is to provide the milk for his 
meals; we can see it already, gambolling on the lawn of 
the Villa Lionnette. . . .) 

394. Romain Holland to Erich Schramm (Germany) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
22 September 1931 

.... My health, very much shaken this year by 
several bronchial attacks in succession, obliges me to stay 
in my room, or indoors, this winter. 

The same reason prevented me from going to greet 
Gandhi at his disembarkation in Marseilles, but my sister did 
it for me; she carried him my message, and Gandhi told us 
he hopes to pass through Villeneuve on his way back to 
India from London. 

Ro main Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


I had occasion to write to him yesterday 1 to pass on 
an ardent request from some youth groups in Southern 
Germany and Switzerland, inviting him to come and speak 
to them. I doubt whether he’ll find time for it in these 
days of discussions with such decisive importance for the 
future of India — and of Europe. But I hope he will at least 
send a message to the German youths, and that is what I 
am asking him to do. . . . 

395. Romain Rolland to Rene Arcos (France) 

Villeneuve, Wednesday , 23 September 1931 

.... Yes, I’m back in Villeneuve, more or less restored 
and refurbished by the Lugano sun; I found my sister there 
who is slowly recovering. The bad weather prevented me 
from going to meet Gandhi in Marseilles, as we had arranged 
between us, but my sister braved the risks to her health 
to carry him my message, and she spent all the mo rning of 
his arrival with him on the boat, present at the procession of 
journalists and official delegates passing before the little 
man, who received them all with his mischievous humour. 
It was very interesting, and she brought back an impres- 
sion of the day which goes beyond even what she expected. 
Gandhi is in excellent health, in good form and with a 
lively, lucid and precise mind, which runs little risk of 
being caught in the honeyed webs of European intrigues 
in which the innocent Tagore got his wings stuck. I’m not 
worried about the outcome; Indian independence is certain, 
and I find it hard to believe that Great Britain won’t have 
the wisdom to consent to it in the best possible conditions. 
Otherwise India will impose it on her; Gandhi’s troops 
are ready for all eventualities. They are mobilised in India 

1 This letter has not been found. 


Romain Rolland and GandH : Correspondence 

by Jawaharlal Nehru, who is a second Gandhi, younger and 
more inclined to vigorous action. Just one cable and the 
order is given for the whole of India. Is the British Empire, 
short as it is of gold, still capable of waging the necessary 
war? How many days can it last? Our Reynauds will have 
to lend them their powder to keep the cannons fed. 

.... I forgot to say that Gandhi will very probably 
come to Villeneuve. He has promised to do so. 

.... Talking about the press reports about Gandhi 
which you read, to see if there was any note of my presence, 
there’s one little observation worth making. Only the 
Marseilles and Southern press referred (naively), not only 
to the presence of my sister, but even to what Gandhi said 
about me to the students of Marseilles. (He told them that 
if he had any links with France it was through me.) The 
Paris press, following orders from above, cut out all the 
references to my name. What fools! Now all my friends 
abroad are aware of the boycott and are exaggerating it. 
It’s grist to their mill. . . . 

396. Romain Rolland to Lucien Roth (France) 

25 September 1931 

.... My sister saw Gandhi for a long time at Mar- 
seilles, and he has promised to come and see us in Villen- 
euve. We still don’t know when he will come, though; it 
may be at short notice, for a weekend, or at the end of the 
conference on the journey from London to Bombay. How 
pleased I should be if you could see him too! . . . 

Roma in Roll and to Foreign Correspondents 


397. Romain Rolland to Louis Guilloux (France) 

Villeneuve , 10 October 1931 

.... You believe you know “the communion of men 
all equally tortured by the same anxieties” . . . You know 
it only in the distress of Europe, of Prance, which compared 
to that of nine-tenths of the earth is still a privileged state. 

Recently, when Gandhi went to visit Lancashire, whose 
working masses have been ruined by the Indian revolt, he 
didn’t hide to the people there (who nobly received him 
and understood him) that though he was sincerely sorry for 
them in their distress which he had caused, he could in no 
way be shocked or restrained by what he saw, for the dis- 
tress of Lancashire compared to that of India still looked 
like luxury. 

The British Empire’s experience with India, off whom 
it has lived for a century and a half and as a result of whom 
it will die, is merely the prelude to that of the whole of the 
West with the rest of the world. . . . 

398. Romain Rolland to Mme. Paul Birukoff 
( Switzerland) 

Villeneuve, 10 October 1931 

.... I am greatly grieved at the death of our dear 
Paul Birukoff. I felt a filial affection and veneration for this 
holy figure; through him I saw and heard Tolstoy, purer, 
gentler and more “kindly”. I am most upset that he pass- 
ed away before having the supreme joy I hoped for him, 
that of meeting Gandhi. (It was one of my dreams to bring 


Romain Rolland and Ga n dhi : Correspondence 

G andhi to see him if he came to Villeneuve, as I have been 
given to hope that he will. He would have offered him 
Tolstoy’s greetings, and would have been worthy to receive 
Gandhi’s homage on Tolstoy’s behalf . . . .) 

399. Romain Rolland to Mme. Paul Birukoff 

( Switzerland ) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
21 October 1931 

. . . . I have received a brief letter this morning from 
Gandhi, and am sending you a copy. It is consoling to think 
that your dear husband was at least able to write to Gam 
dhi on the eve of his death and send him his last greetings, 
at which Gandhi was deeply moved. 

It is more or less certain that Gandhi will pass through 
Switzerland. He has said so again today through Miss 
Slade (Mira), who has written to my sister. Unfortunately 
the date is not certain yet. It depends how long the Round 
Table Conferences last; they may be over by mid-November 
(or even before), or they may go on until December. Gandhi 
will not leave London before they end. (It is very pro- 
bable, I might add, that they will come to nothing; Gan- 
dhi foresees this, but it is not affecting his optimism.) I 
should have very much liked you to be able to meet him 
when he comes. . . . 

400. Romain Rolland to Charles Baudouin 

Villeneuve, 29 October 1931 

.... Gandhi will no doubt spend a few days with 
us in mid-November. Would you like me to give you notice 
of it? (But don’t tell anyone about it!) ... 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


401. Romain Holland to Berta Schleicher (Germany) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
11 November 1931 

.... Gandhi is still keeping us in suspense about the 
exact date of his arrival, but the latest news from him 
which arrived yesterday says it will be in the second half 
of this month. The Indian National Congress, whose dele- 
gate he is, is recalling him as soon as the London negotia- 
tions are finished, without leaving him time for his planned 
European tour. Villeneuve alone is excepted, as it is on the 
direct route back. So we shall be expecting his arrival 
starting from about 20 November, and he will be staying 
here a few days. 

In these conditions, I shall have to ask you if you 
wouldn’t mind putting off your journey to Switzerland 
next month, when we should risk being disturbed in our 
(or rather your) work. 1 But we shall be free from the 
second week in December, by which time our Indian visi- 
tors will certainly have left for India where, alas, the 
struggle will begin again. . . . 

1 Preparation of a German-language edition of a selection from the 
correspondence between Romain Rolland and Malwida von Meysenbug. 


Romain Rolland and Gand h i : Correspondence 

402. Romain. Rolland to Charles Baudouin 
( Switzerland) 

Wednesday , 2 December 1931 

.... Our Indians are arriving on Sunday evening 
and staying until Friday evening. On Tuesday from 4 to 
9, several meetings have been organized for G. in Lau- 
sanne. There -will very probably be another one in Geneva; 
in any case Gandhi will be going there. Monday is G.’s 
silence day (but he’ll listen). I can’t say whether there’ll 
be any excursions organized for the other days; G. seems to 
wish it. I wanted to be sure you knew. (Don’t talk about it 
to anyone else!) Perhaps it would be best to telephone the 
day before, so as to be sure of finding him. . . . 

403. Romain Rolland to Lucien Roth (France) 

4 December 1931 

.... Gandhi is definitely arriving in Villeneuve on 
Sunday evening, 6 December, and will stay with us (in the 
Villa Lionnette, which is independent of mine) until the 
evening of Friday 11th. On Tuesday he will hold four suc- 
cessive but different meetings in Lausanne, both public and 
private, between 4 and 9 p.m. (Among others, Pierre C<S re- 
sole and the International Civil Service will be there, along 
with the conscientious objectors.) 

I know your health and other occupations will not allow 
you to be there, but my sister wanted us to send you the 
invitation cards (or rather have them sent from Lausanne). 

Re main Roll and to Foreign Correspondents 


This is to let you know in advance. In any case you will 
be with us in our thoughts in the coming days. . . . 

.... I shall have to refrain from going with Gandhi 
to Lausanne or anywhere else. The most I shall be able to 
do is to go from one villa to the other. Broken down old 

.... Naturally we’re assailed on all sides by requests 
— and offers — for Gandhi. The Vevey dairymen’s trade 
union (and the Socialist municipality) telephoned yesterday 
to ask for the honour of “purveying to the king of India ” 
(sic!) during his stay. . . . 

404. Romain Holland to Frans Masereel (France) 

Villeneuve, Saturday, 5 December 1931 

.... Gandhi is arriving tomorrow, Sunday, and will 
stay with us until Friday 11th. He’s coming with a whole 
entourage of Indians and admirers from all lands, whom 
he drags along behind him willy nilly like a tail. It’ll be 
an interesting five days, but we shall have our work cut 
out. The telephone has been ringing incessantly for a week, 
and the mail . . . well, it’s enough to drown one! We are 
receiving the strangest of messages; some real curiosities as 
well. The local trade union nas placed itself entirely at 
tne disposition of the “king of India” (sic/), to “purvey” 
to him while he’s here. . . . 

405. Romain Holland to Claire Geniaux (France) 

Villeneuve, Tuesday, 8 December 1931 

, . . .It’s quite true that Gandhi is my guest at the 
moment. He arrived on Sunday and is staying until Friday, 
and we have already had long conversations. As I thought. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

he is very simple, very modest and very sure of his methods 
and his faith. It is true that he refuses to be distracted 
from his Indian task; he leaves it to others to apply to 
Europe his tactics of combat without violence, and he be- 
lieves that the victory of India will be of use to the rest 
of the world. This evening, in meetings in Lausanne, he is 
to meet Pierre C^r^sole, leader of the International Civil 
Service, and perhaps Einstein. As to what’s waiting for 
him when he arrives in India: prison, deportation, etc., it 
doesn’t affect him in the least. He finds it quite natural that 
he and his people should have to suffer cruelly, and he 
talks of it gaily. . . . 

406. Romain Rolland to Berta Schleicher 


Villeneuve, Wednesday , 9 December 1931 

.... Gandhi has been with us since last Sunday, 
with some of his Indian disciples, and will be staying until 
Friday 11th. They’re going back to India via Brindisi. . . . 

407. Romain Rolland to Pastor William Genton 

( Switzerland) 

Villa Olga , Villeneuve, 10 December 1931 

.... Having been born and bred a Christian, I have 
often been struck by the fact that today’s Christians are 
men of little faith. I have often wondered why they bring 
God into their thoughts at all, for they generally act not 
according to God’s absolute principles, but on reasons of 
personal appropriateness and expediency. The least one 
can say is that they show only a very limited confidence 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


in God, and they trust less in His aid than in that of 
their own strong arms. 

Since I am now detached from the Christian religion, 
I am not commenting or passing judgment on this attitude; 
I am merely noting it as a fact. 

In no sense is this attitude shared by Gandhi and the 
elite of Hindu believers following him. 

I am very familiar with the basis of his thought on 
Non-violence and Non-acceptance without violence (which it is 
completely absurd to call “Non-resistance”, since it is an 
extreme resistance, carried to the furthest limits of hero- 
ism; that of the man marching out to suffering and death 
with open arms, not only without countering violence by 
violence, but even countering hatred by love). 

This faith, this law which Gandhi has followed and 
applied in action for thirty years, is absolute, with no com- 
promise and no exception. 

It is not enough to say that it would not vary if it 
were faced, not with the English, but with the Russians, 
the Italian Fascists or the Chinese. Even if it were up 
against thirty million legions of the devils of hell (as 
Luther might have put it), it would still not vary. 

Here again I’m not commenting or judging; I’m 
noting and asserting a fact, for such is the exact and abso- 
lute truth. It’s clear that you’re not aware of the physical 
and moral intrepidity of the men and women formed by 
the Mahatma’s example and faith. But if you re-read 
the acts of the Christian Martyrs, you would find among 
these men, still illuminated by the living memory of the 
Man who bore his own cross, the same calm and joyful 
exaltation of sacrifice. 

You also seem to me very ill-informed about English 
oppression in India which is just as brutal and inhuman 
as that of Mussolini in the Italian countryside. Naturally 
it has the same cautious respect for Gandhi that the Tsarists 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

felt obliged to show towards Tolstoy, though at the same 
time deporting or hanging those who adhered to his views; 
no despotism wants to arouse world opinion by striking at 
certain too highly placed heads. But whereas Tolstoy was 
content to moan about the exceptional measures protec ting 
him, Gandhi can and will break through them by marching 
in the front ranks of the masses he is leading to the sacri- 
fice. All your doubts on this subject will be removed in 
the very near future. This winter will not pass without the 
campaign of Non-acceptance being revived all over India, 
and none of the Indians I am seeing is unaware of the thou- 
sands of sacrifices which will be the ransom of their inde- 
pendence. But whatever the toll of deaths and sufferings 
may be, India and her leader will pay it. Need I add 
that the greatest joy of a man like Gandhi would be to be 
killed for his faith? It’s not impossible to believe that this 
is how it will be. . . . 

408. Roxnain Holland to Erich Schramm (Germany) 

Villeneuve, 14 December 1931 

.... Here are Gandhi’s replies to your questions; they 
were noted down as he was speaking: 

1. What do you call God ? 

“God is not a person , but an immutable law. And in this 
case the law and its Maker are one . In ordinary experience the 
■word “law” means books of law , but here when 1 speak of law , 
I mean the living law. That is what God is. And this law 
does not change; it is eternal. It is not a personal God who 
changes with changing circumstances. God is an eternal principle , 
and that is why I have said that Truth is God.” 

Note well that he does not say “God is Truth”’, this is 
a distinction he had dwelt on several times. For “truth” 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


(the divine) can be found among men (notably scientists) 
who profess and believe to be atheists. 

2. Do you trust the Christians, etc. . . . 

Gandhi replied explicitly to this quesion at the Lau- 
sanne meetings. This is how he sums up his views on the 

“ Christianity is good, but the Chtistians are bad.” 

3. Would you join an organization for a unive.sal religion, 
peace, etc. . . . 

Gandhi replies that if the questioner wants to know if 
he favours a universal approach to peace and affectionate 
co-operation between all men, the question is more than 
superfluous, since that has been the aim of his whole life. 
But when it comes to joining an organization, of whatever 
kind it may be, he refuses: 

“I have often been asked to associate myself witk some parti- 
cular organization and I have always said no 1 In London I refused 
to allow my name to be associated with a league calling itself the 
“ World League of Ahimsa ”. I even refused to put my signature to 
the journal they published. So my reply here, as always, is no! 

Those, my dear Mr. Schramm, are the exact replies. 

Forgive me for not being able to receive you these 
last few days. I was very unwell with ’flu when Gandhi 
was staying with me, and I had to reserve all my strength 
for the long conversations I had with him. . . . 

409. Romain Rolland to Re Meynard (France) 

Villeneuve, 16 December 1931 

.... Gandhi did indeed spend five days here, and 
though his visit brought us much joy and instruction, it 
also considerably added to our tasks; for a week life was an 
uninterrupted tornado of telegrams, telephone calls, letters 
and packages, and an invasion of visitors from far and near. 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

We still haven’t finished winding up the legacy of intruders 
which he left us. But his words have been profoundly 
moving to thousands of people, and the bourgeois press is 
foaming with rage today. . . . 

410. Romain Rolland to Henri Hisquin (France) 

Villeneuve, 16 December 1931 

.... Gandhi did indeed spend five days here, and he 
left us a rich harvest of thought— both from our private 
conversations and from the meetings we organized for him 
in Lausanne and Geneva. With his calm sincerity, he gave 
a rough shaking to the stick-in-the-muds along our frog- 
pool of a lake. He even peacefully tweaked the long Calvi- 
nesque nose of the Journal de Geneve with its arrant lies. So 
the great bourgeois press is foaming with rage. But thou- 
sands of little people have been moved to the depths of 
their beings, and their touching messages bear witness to the 
fact; I was submerged with them last week. As to the conver- 
sations and discussions, both private and public, with Gan- 
dhi, I have been setting down my memories of them for the 
last week. His thought couldn’t be clearer or firmer in any 
detail, and I am certain that if he lives ten more years (as 
he may well do; his frail appearance gives a false idea of his 
solid constitution) we shall see him, after the struggle for 
independence, engage a new and complementary battle with 
the same weapons against native capitalism in India. He 
has said straight out: “I make no distinction between native 
capitalism and English capitalism. . . . But in the struggle 
for independence I do not want to make the problem even 
more difficult than it is already.” To each day its own pro- 
blem, and one step at a time! His steps are giant strides, 
and they go straight ahead. . . . 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


411. Romain Holland to Pastor Paul Leenliardt 


Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
20 December 1931 

.... A year ago in the Moscow press (by way of 
example), I defended individualism and “humanism” (to 
avoid saying “humanitarianism”) against some Bolshevik 
writers 1 who were courteously reproaching me for not 
breaking .free from these ideals (by the way, I understand 
perfectly how disgusted they are by the hypocritical use of 
these great words by the rhetoricians of the West). This 
debate went the rounds of the Russian press; it even got in 
among the young workers in the factories, some siding 
with me, others against; even “officials” have publicly writ- 
ten: “Rolland is right: true humanism and healthy and 
full individualism are the ideals we seek, the ideals at which 
we must arrive. Bourgeois thought in the West, w r hich swears 
by them, is not really serving them; it betrays them.” I 
have some interesting letters from young workers on the 
subject. ... In the same quarters I have asserted my 
friendship and admiration for Gandhi which had been re- 
proached in me as a weakness; and my quoted words have 
given many young Communists food for thought. . . . 

1 Letter to Fedor Gladkov and Ilya Selvinsky, February, 1931 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

412. Romain Rolland to Georges Pioch (France) 

Villeneuve , 23 December 1931 

.... As to Gandhi and Mussolini, here are the facts. 

At one of his Lausanne meetings, Gandhi was expounding 
his doctrine of absolute non-co-operation with the state. Cere- 
sole, the noble director and founder of the International 
Civil Service, raised the objection that not all states are 
equally bad and not everything is bad in the state; are 
there no functions within it with which one can and should 
co-operate ? 

Gandhi replied, with his usual clarity: 

“ . . , . There is no state, even run by a Nero or a Mus- 
solini, which has no good things in it. But we must reject 
the whole from the moment we decide not to co-operate with 
the system. . . .” 

(There follow some very interesting explanations and 
expansions of the idea, based on precise examples in India; 
but this quotation is enough here.) 

You can be sure that there is no “ naivety 55 in Gandhi. No- 
thing takes him in, and he goes straight ahead on his way 
without hiding anything — without worrying about the police- 
men who escorted him from London to Brindisi without 
straying an inch from his side, along with the ever-growing 
snowball of their Swiss and Italian colleagues. Everything 
he thinks he says aloud; the police and the Duci waste their 
time on him. 

.... The interview with Mussolini took place in the 
presence of three witnesses brought and chosen by Gandhi, 
including his two secretaries. The content will be known 
later if Gandhi chooses, and we can be sure that Gandhi 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


calmly stated his undisguised thought. What I know of 
Tagore’s visit to Mussolini allows me to reconstruct the 
scene. Tagore told the Duce that he was horrified by vio- 
lence, and the Duce, inclining, replied: “Me too!” 

Let’s all sing the immortal fugue from Falstqff (at the 
end of the comedy): “Tutfe burla. . . .” 

413. Romain Rolland to Lucien Roth (France) 

24 December 1931 

.... Don’t count on the Swiss press for a report of" 
Gandhi’s meetings; they would have stifled the slightest 
report of his passage through their country if they could! 
Gandhi’s words, clear and calm, gave such a lash to their 
hypocrisy that the Swiss bourgeoisie is kicking itself for 
having allowed him to be heard. After the first meeting in 
Lausanne, the order went out to the radio not to broadcast 
the Geneva meeting on any station, either Swiss or 
German (as had at first been arranged), and the whole 
press hammered him with a few words of scornful derision. 
(The only exceptions are the small and insignificant lea- 
flets put out by the French Swiss conscientious objectors 
and La Sentinelle of La Chaux-de-Fonds, and the only edi- 
tor of that capable of understanding Gandhi’s ideas, Edmond 
Privat, has left with him for India.) 

How I wish I could share with you the long conver- 
sations I had with Gandhi! — every morning for five days, 
from 9 to 12, to say nothing of the other occasions. I took 
exact notes of them, but alas, I am so overladen with 
work (and these extra jobs have made me all behind) that 
there’s no time today to repeat to you the most precious 
thing" that were said. I found him absolutely sincere, abso- 
lutely firm and steadfast in his path. Alongside him all 
our own conscientious objectors, Pierre Ceresole and his 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Corresp onden ce 

phalanx of the International Civil Service, looked like timid 
and stammering children. In Lausanne Gandhi laid down 
his doctrine of absolute non-co-operation with the state which 
generates armies and war; non-co-operation'fnot only with 
the army (which is too little!) but with every activity of the 
state, rights and duties, tasks and privileges. Ceresole, who 
tries to reconcile his duty as a Swiss citizen with the voice of 
his conscience and was profoundly disturbed, made an at- 
tempt to distinguish between good and bad states; but 
Gandhi replied calmly that even the worst states, “those of 
Hero or Mussolini”, always have something good in them 
and that this is no reason for not rejecting them as a whole. 
In Geneva he made a clear pronouncement on the double 
problem of militarism (even that which claims to be in 
self-defence) and capitalism. He said that the only real 
force in the world was Labour, and that if the workers rea- 
lized this they would only have to stand and show them- 
selves for the whole of capitalism to crumble. For his own 
part, he added that he makes no distinction in India bet- 
ween native and British capitalism. It’s very clear that 
if he lives ten more years (as he may well do; his apparent 
weakness gives a false impression of his unshakable soli- 
dity) he will take the lead in the Indian social movement 
when the national question is settled. For the moment he is 
expecting (as we all are) a cruel British drive to crush 
Indian independence; the least he anticipates for himself is 
deportation, and he is going to face it with laughter on his 
lips. For he doesn’t smile, he laughs, with his toothless 
mouth wide open, ‘panting like a big friendly dog rubbing his 
wet nose against your shoulder. That’s how he embraced 
me, but it was his head, not his nose, which was wet be- 
cause of the rain; his shaven head with grey stubbly hair. 
Each evening at 7 o’clock there were prayers in my ground- 
floor lounge. (Every night, too, at 3 in the morning, but I 
wasn’t present at those.) They were fine old chants, from the 

Remain Roll and to Foreign Correspondents 


Gita and the tale of Rama and Sita, which reminded me 
of our Gregorian chant. Then at the end he asked me to 
play him some Beethoven (he knows that Beethoven was the 
link between his great disciple Mira (Miss Slade) and my- 
self, and that I then became the link between Mira and 
him; thus the gratitude of all three of us goes back to Beetho- 
ven). I played him the Andante from the Fifth Symphony , 
and added the Elysian Fields (the flute melody) from Orfeo. 

Mahadev Desai and Pyarelal, the two secretaries and 
disciples who were with him, are admirable young men, 
full of talent and born artists, but they sacrificed every- 
thing to him and they regret nothing, delighting in the extra- 
ordinary atmosphere of purity and heroism which radiates 
from the man and his Ashram. But Mira dominates them 
all in the Ashram by her nobility and beauty; she’s an unfor- 
gettable vision, like a young Demeter. It’s nearly ten years 
ago that I knew her for the first time in London, at a time 
when she did not know where to turn and some instinct drew 
her towards me; then she stayed in Villeneuve for two suc- 
cessive years (at a distance, though, and seeing me only 
once or twice in three months) , and the same instinct led me 
to direct her towards Gandhi. It’s safe to say today — and 
she says it too — that this was a real illumination, for she 
found there a task predestined for her from all eternity, her 
mission, her master and her homeland; her role there is 
a large one and it will go on growing. She has become 
purely Indian, but she has brought as a dowry to India the 
active intelligence of a European and gifts of practical orga- 
nization which marry admirably with those of Gandhi. 

They would both like to see me there, but what little 
life I have left to me is not enough for poor unfortunate 
Europe. As to that problem, Gandhi is well aware of the 
tragic destiny threatening Europe. (I told him about it; 
Monday was his silence day ” when he says nothing, but he 
listens, and I took my chance.) But he refuses to occupy 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

his mind with it at present. He is a man of action, com- 
pletely taken up with the action he is at present pursuing, 
and basing it solely on his personal experiences — and he 
admits himself that his personal experiences are not enough 
for our Europe; they are valid only for his 300 million 
Indians. It’s not that he isn’t intimately convinced of the 
effectiveness of his non-violent methods for all mankind, but 
the terms of their application vary according to peoples and 
circumstances, and he says it’s not for him to decide them 
for Europe; Europe herself must give birth to another 
Gandhi. He also thinks that the most useful thing he can 
do for the world is to carry his action in India forward 
to victory, for when (he says “when”, not “if”) this vic- 
tory is obtained, its radiant power will act on Europe. This 
is what he thinks about Europe at heart: “O men of little 
faith! You cannot believe without touching. Well then, 
touch! We shall show you our crucifixion and the lance- 
thrust in our side. . . .” 

414. Romain Rolland to Lucien Price (U.S.A.) 

Villeneuve, 25 December 1931 

.... Your article in the Globe 1 on our meeting with 
Gandhi touched me no less than your most welcome letter. 

.... How pleased I would have been to have you 
here during our Indians’ stay! They were here for five 
days, from Sunday evening to Friday 11th in the after- 
noon, staying in the Villa Lionnette. The little man, 
spectacled, toothless, enveloped in his white burnous, legs 
bare, skinny and stilt-like, like a heron’s, head bare and 
tonsured with rough stubble damp in the rain, came up 
to me with a jerky laugh, his mouth open like a good dog 

1 A Boston newspaper 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


panting. He rested his cheek on my shoulder, putting his 
right arm round me, and I felt his grey head against my 
cheek; the kiss of St. Dominic and St. Francis (hark at me 
boasting!) With him were Mira (Miss Slade), proud of 
features and with the august bearing of a Demeter, and 
three Indians, a young son of Gandhi called Devdas, with 
a round and happy face (a nice lad, not fully aware of the 
great name he bears), and two secretaries and disciples, 
young men of rare qualities of mind and heart: Mahadev 
Desai and Pyarelal. 

Since I’d managed just before he came to pick up a 
bad cold on my chest, Gandhi came to me each morning in 
the first-floor room in the Villa Olga where I sleep (you 
remember it), and we had long conversations. (My sister 
served as interpreter, helped by Mira, and I also had 
a Russian friend and secretary, Marie Koudacheff, to note 
down our conversations. Schlemmer, our neighbour in Mon- 
treux, took some good photographs to capture the scene.) 
Then at 7 in the evening, in the ground-floor lounge, there 
were prayers, with the lights out, the Indians sitting on 
the floor, a little assembly of tire faithful in a group round 
him: a series of three fine chants, the first taken from the 
Gita , the second an ancient hymn based on Sanskrit texts, 
translated by Gandhi, the third a canticle to Rama and 
Sita, intoned by Mira’s grave and warm voice. These fine 
recitatives, unfolding calmly in the night, were separated by 
periods of total silence. Gandhi holds prayers again at 3 in 
the morning, for which he would wake up his hard-pressed 
staff in London when they’d only got back at 1 o’clock. He’s 
an unbreakable little man, though he looks frail; tiredness 
is a word he doesn’t know; he could spend hours answering 
every point thrown at him by a listening crowd attacking 
him, as he did in Lausanne and Geneva — sitting on a table, 
his voice staying clear and calm, striking back at both de- 
clared and undeclared adversaries (and there was no lack 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

of them in Geneva!) with harsh truths which left them 
dazed and choking. The Swiss bourgeoisie, militarist and 
nationalist, which first received him with astute courtesy, 
was trembling with rage when he left, and I believe he 
would have been forbidden any more public meetings if his 
stay had been longer. He expressed himself in the clearest 
and most unequivocal terms possible on the double question 
of national armies and conflicts between capital and labour; 
I myself spurred him on considerably in this latter direct- 
ion. His mind advances by successive experiments on ac- 
tion, and he sticks to a straight course, but he never stops, 
and one could easily make mistakes if one judged him by 
what he said ten years ago, as his thought is in constant 
evolution. I’ll give you just one typical example. He was 
asked in Lausanne to define what he meant by God. He 
explained how, among the thousands of names given to 
God in the Hindu scriptures, he settled in his youth on the 
word Truth as the most essential definition. So he said 
“God is Truth”. “But”, he adds, “ two years ago I went a 
step further, to say that “ Truth is God”. For “even the athe- 
ists do not doubt the necessity and the power of truth. In 
their passion to discover truth, the atheists have not hesi- 
tated to deny the existence of God, and, from their point of 
view , they are right.” This detail alone will give you a 
glimpse of the boldness and independence of this religious 
spirit of the East. I’ve noticed similar details in Vivekananda. 

For his brief journey to Italy, I spent a long time put- 
ting him on his guard, and I sent him to one of my friends 
in Rome, General Moris, who made him his guest and kept 
him out of some of the traps. (N.B. There’s no point in 
mentioning his name if you have occasion to speak about 
this in public; it would be held against Moris.) When 
he saw Mussolini, he took the precaution of having two 
witnesses with him, Mira and his secretary, to prevent his 
words from being deformed, and I’m sure he expressed 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


himself with his usual liberty. Gandhi’s account of h ; s interview 
with the Duce, echoes of which have reached me, is full of 
humour; we’ll talk about it again. In any case he hasn’t 
been taken in; there’s no political trick that can catch him 
out. His own policy is to say everything he thinks to any- 
one; there’s never anything hidden. So the two Herculean 
policemen bestowed on him by England, who escorted him 
to Brindisi, swollen on the way by their Swiss and Italian 
counterparts, didn’t earn their money — unless they forged false 
reports! (Of which there was no lack in the Fascist press.) 

On the last evening, after the prayers, Gandhi asked 
me to play him a little Beethoven. (He doesn’t know Beetho- 
ven, but he knows that Beethoven was the link between 
Mira and myself, and that I was then the link between 
Mira and him; thus in the end all our gratitude goes back 
to Beethoven.) I played him the Andante from the Fifth 
Symphony, and I added Gluck’s Elysian Fields (the orchestral 
piece and the flute melody). He is very affected by the 
religious chants of his country which are related to our 
finest Gregorian melodies, and he has worked to collect 
them. We also exchanged our ideas on art, a notion which 
he does not separate from that of truth , nor from that of joy 
which he says truth should bring. “Sat-chit-ananda” . . . 
“Sat” means “truth”. “Chit” means “that which lives” and 
“true knowledge”. £c Ananda” means “ineffable joy”. But 
it goes without saying that for his heroic nature joy is not 
found without effort, nor indeed without harshness. “ The 
seeker after truth has a heart tender as the lotus and hard as gra- 

These, my dear friend, are just a few shreds from these 
last few days, of which I have taken detailed notes. What I 
haven’t told you about is the whirlwind of tiresome, curious 
and half-mad creatures let loose on our villas as a result 
of his passage. The telephone never stopped ringing, photo- 
graphers in' ambush were letting fly from every bush. The 


Romain Rolland ax id Gandhi : Correspondence 

Lake of Geneva Dairymen’s union wrote that they hoped 
to be “ purveyors ” to the “king of India” while he was 
staying with me. We had letters from “sons of God”; and 
there were Italian women writing to the Mahatma to ask 
him for ten numbers for the next draw in the “Lotto” (the 
weekly national lottery) ! . . . 

415. Romain Rolland to Gabriel Belot (France) 

Villenetive, 25 December 1931 

.... We’ve had the pleasure of having Gandhi with 
us for five days. You know his thought through my books; 
what you don’t know is his laughter, his open toothless laugh 
like a good dog panting. He’s quite straightforward, quite 
frank and quite sincere. He’s going right ahead on his way, 
and like the “Rattenf anger” (the Pied Piper) in the legend, 
there are a hundred men and women following him. . . . 

416. Romain Rolland to Stefan Zweig (Austria) 

Villeneuve, 30 December 1931 

.... The passage of our Indian guest, who stayed 
five days with us, has left us with rich memories. We had 
long conversations with him, and I have taken exact notes of 
them. He’s just as I thought he was, the most sincere and 
upright of men, but lucid and subtle too, with a sense of 
humour, enjoying a laugh and nobody’s dupe. I didn’t detect 
the least shadow of vanity in him, no infatuation with him- 
self or his ideas, no dogmatic or pedantic stiffness. After 
stating his convictions, he added: “I well know that the 
same self-confidence may be the sign of delusion or idiocy. 
It may be that I am wrong. But I do not believe I am, 
for I propose nothing that I have not personally experimented. 

Romain Holland to Foreign. Correspondents 


and my experiments have brought me confirmation 
over thirty-five years of public action both on myself and 
on thousands of people.” On another occasion, at the Paris 
meeting, he said: “If there is a science, it springs from self- 
knowledge and action.” Ideological discussions are useless. 
“Only direct experience counts.” But even this does not tie 
him down; his mind, which is prudent and steadfast and 
unwavering, never comes to a standstill; he is constantly in 
evolution. To give a small characteristic example of it, he 
said (we found out) at one of his Lausanne meetings that 
truth had always been his passion, ever since childhood, and 
that among the thousand definitions of God given in the 
Hindu scriptures, he’d stopped at: “God is truth” “But,” he 
said, “two years ago I took a step further; I reversed the 
formula and I now say: ‘ Truth is God .’ ” (which permits him 
to annex even the atheists who, out of a sincere passion for 
truth, deny God. “And from their point of view,” he adds, 
“they are right.”) You see the breadth of this Indian 
mind — I’d already studied a splendid specimen of the breed 
in the person of Vivekananda. 

As to what you write about his attitude to machinery, 
well, it’s a most strange error, fostered by the German press 
which has never taken the trouble to make a close study of 
Gandhi’s thought and action because at heart it has no 
sympathy for him. Gandhi' — today’s Gandhi— in no way 
condemns machinery or industrial techniques, in so far as they 
bring help and relief to humanity; his quarrel is merely with 
their murderous excesses and the morbid myth of economic 
overproduction. When you look at India, you find a very 
special situation. The Indian climate does not allow the 
peasants to work on the soil for more than four months in 
the year at most. Since English domination has undermined 
the village crafts which added to the insufficient profits they 
drew from the land, millions of men have been reduced to 
poverty and malnutrition. The most urgent problem is to 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

bring back craftsmanship, of which the simplest form, acces- 
sible to all and bringing in sure returns, is the spinning 
wheel. This is just common sense, and it’s absurd to think 
that Gandhi would dream of applying it in Europe. 
All he would do would be to encourage the workers of 
Europe to create independent trades for themselves out- 
side the large industries, which would enable them to sustain 
with some chance of success their inevitable struggle against 
the bosses who try to exploit them. 

In Geneva he spoke out with absolute clarity on the 
question of capital and labour — which made the bourgeoi- 
sie choke with rage and unleashed all the big French Swiss 
papers against him. He sided absolutely with labour, and he 
clearly declared that he drew no distinction in India bet- 
ween foreign and native capitalism; when the time comes 
he will march alongside Indian labour against Indian capi- 
talism exploiting it. But very naturally he says he “doesn’t 
want at the present moment to complicate the national 
struggle by bringing in these bones of contention straight 
away”. Sufficient unto each day is its task! He’s man 
enough for ten more years of combat. His frail appearance 
gives a false idea of the unshakable solidity of his body 
and his will. Not for a minute, even in the most harassing 
meetings, was there ever a trace of tiredness in his voice 
or wavering in his mind. When he walks on bis skinny 
heron-like legs, he doesn’t walk; he runs like a hare, and 
there’s no one who can follow him; in Rome he left a trail 
of journalists behind him, and the policemen attached to 
his heels by the tender care of the authorities (there were 
two huge English policemen escorting him from London to 
Brindisi, reinforced on the way by the French, the Swiss and 
the Italians) had a hard job to do — and a useless one, as 
he says everything he thinks out loud to everybody; that’s his 

In Rome I put him on to an old friend of mine, an 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


anti-Fascist Italian general, who made him his guest; I’ve 
heard some amusing details of his interview with Musso- 
lini, to which he took the precaution of taking three trusty 
witnesses, including his two secretaries. While on the sub- 
ject, the two Indian secretaries struck me greatly; two 
young men, very artistic and pure in heart, with a rare dis- 
tinction of mind, who have sacrificed everything to him and 
do not regret it. I say nothing of our friend Mira (Miss 
Slade), who is an admirable vision (a sort of young 
Demeter). She told me much about the intimate side of 
Gandhi and the Ashram. . . . 

417. Romain Holland to Esther Marchand (France) 

Villeneuve, 30 December 1931 

.... May the year 1932 find us ever valiant, both in 
body and in mind, for it will bring plenty to disturb us! 
Our French politicians have shown such folly in heating 
up the European stewpot that one of these days it will ex- 
plode. All the letters which reach me from Germany are 
anxiously anticipating a sort of St. Bartholomew’s Eve 
which will be the prelude to further catastrophes. Armies of 
despair and wretchedness are on the point of springing 
from the soil. 

Gandhi has left his calm among us in the midst of the 
storm. He stayed five days with me, going off only for a 
few hours of public meetings in Lausanne and Geneva. He 
made a profound impression among thousands of people, but 
be made the great bourgeois press of French Switzerland 
choke with rage when he calmly unmasked their lies and 
exposed the guile behind their questions in his public dis- 
cussions. He expressed himself in public with total clarity 
on the double question of militarism (even the Swiss kind) 
and the struggle between capital and labour. We had long 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

private conversations, my sister serving as interpreter, with 
the help of the admirable Mira (Miss Slade); I took exact 
notes of them. Meeting Gandhi in the flesh neither disappoin- 
ted nor surprised me; he’s quite straightforward, quite sin- 
cere and quite upright. His convictions are firmly based 
on his experiences in action over thirty-five years, but his 
thought has never come to a standstill; it never ceases to 
evolve, both on the social and the religious field. Here’s a 
small but typical example: since childhood. Truth has been 
his passion, and he’d come to state his faith as: “God is Truth,” 

Two years ago he reversed the formula, and he now says: 

“ Truth is God.” This looks insignificant, but there’s a world 
of difference, as his new Greed also embraces atheists who 
have a passion for truth. What I did learn from seeing 
him was what an extraordinarily solid creature he is; his 

frail appearance is deceptive. His voice and his frame are 

unshakable; he could speak for days on end to thousands of 
people without tiring his vocal chords, and when he goes 
for a walk on his heron-like legs, he runs along so quickly 
that even the best walkers have difficulty in following him; 
(on the Monte Mario he left a trail of panting journalists 
behind him) . As to the European cold about which you were 
worrying in your letter, he’s used to it because of his stays 
in the Himalayas; for the five days and nights he spent here, 
when the weather was rainy and freezing, he always had all 
his windows open, day and night; bare legs and bare head, 
too, in all weathers. He wasn’t disappointed in London, as 
he told my sister what the outcome would be when he arrived 
in Marseilles; he’s going back with a smile to throw him- 
self into the gulf that awaits him, for he foresees the cruel- 
lest of repression from England, with thousands of sacri- 
fices and certain victory for India at the end of it. I was 
wrong to talk of his smile; it would be better to say his 
laugh, for laughter is his habit, frank and toothless. He has 
a good sense of humour, and there’s no risk of his being 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


taken in by any political ruse; he can see under the masks. 
But it causes him no bitterness; he goes straight on his way, 
and the policemen escorting him (two huge British officers 
who stayed hard on his heels all the way from London to 
Brindisi, reinforced on the way by their French, Swiss and 
Italian colleagues) were wasting their time, as he says all 
he thinks straight out to everybody; that’s his policy. 

Each evening at 7 o’clock in my ground-floor lounge 
(and in his room at night, at 3 a.m. — only I wasn’t there) 
there were prayers; lights out, sitting on the carpet; 
always a series of three fine chants (of which the first two 
varied) : the first an extract from the Gita, the second a 
Vedic hymn, and the third litanies to Rama and Sita, in- 
toned by Mira’s grave and warm voice. On the last evening 
when the lights came on again, he asked me to play him a 
piece by Beethoven. He doesn’t know the man 1 but he knows 
that Beethoven was the link between his great disciple Mira 
(the English admiral’s daughter) and myself, who then 
became the link between Mira and Gandhi, so all three 
of us owe our gratitude to Beethoven. I played him the 
Andante from the Fifth Symphony , and I added the Elysum 
Fields from Orfeo (the first orchestral melody and the flute 
melody, for I know from Tagore’s example that there’s 
no page of European music better attuned to an Indian’s 
sensibilities) . 

In Italy I recommended him to a very trustworthy old 
friend in Rome, with whom he lodged, on the Monte 
Mario, and who was able to defend him. Whatever lies the 
Fascist press may have peddled around (which was easily 
foreseeable), the necessary precautions were taken to prevent 
any suspect conversations from taking place without reli- 

1 But on the other hand Gandhi’s two Indian secretaries, young 
men of rare distinction of heart and mind, know Beethoven and speak 
of him with emotion. (R. R.’s note) . 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

able witnesses. At his interview with Mussolini (Gandhi 
is a Head of State, and must take account of certain 
necessities of State) he had three chosen witnesses with 
him, including Mira and his secretary Mahadev Desai, and 
Tm sure he calmly expounded his thoughts without compro- 
mise and without disguise; Mussolini probably did what he 
did for Tagore (who, for his part, was taken in), which was 
to reply, when Tagore said he was “horrified by violence 55 , 
by inclining and saying cc Me too 55 . Gandhi makes no mys- 
tery of what he thinks of Italian Fascism; replying in one 
of his Lausanne meetings to C er^sole, who was trying to 
make a distinction between good and bad states for pur- 
poses of practising absolute non-co-operation, Gandhi ans- 
wered calmly: “Even the worst states, those of JVero or Musso- 
lini, have some^good in them. This is no reason for us to 
draw any distinctions; we must reject everything in them 
as a whole, if we are their citizens. . . . 55 

418. Romain Rolland to Clara Beerli ( Switzerland) 

31 December 1931 

.... Tm happy that you were able to see Gandhi 
among us. He left much light in his passage. On the last 
evening I played him the Andante from the Fifth Symphony, 
and I added the Elysian Fields from Gluck’s Orfeo . Schlemmer 
of Montreux took some very good photographs; Til try to 
get him to print some in post-card format and Til send you 
some. . . . 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


419. Romain Rolland to La Revolution Prolctarienne 1 

.... I am sending you a copy of Gandhi’s replies. 
... I guarantee their accuracy, but it would be useful to 
complement them by the numerous other replies by Gandhi 
to similar questions, either in the Geneva and Lausanne 
meetings, or to the young Indian Communists in London. 
It is unfortunate that there is no social circle in France 
which receives the weekly journal Toung India, which Gan- 
dhi has been publishing in Ahmedabad and filling with his 
thought for the last ten years or so. His thought has never 
•ceased to evolve, and it never will. Gandhi’s very essence 
is movement; he experiments as he acts, and he moves one 
step at a time, but without stopping. One of the most 
striking examples of this evolution — although it has only 
an indirect effect on social action — is the fact that a man of 
faith like him, exactly two years ago (he said so himself in 
Lausanne) should have turned round his article of faith, 
“God is Truth”, to say “Truth is God” (or divine) — which 
opens the door (he says so himself) to all free and honest 
thought, even atheistic, and above all to science. 

I’m convinced that if he lives ten more years — and I 
hope he will; he’s a frail-looking little man, but he’s solidly 
built — we shall see him at the head of the Indian proletariat 
leading the same war of “Non-co-operation” against the 
Indian capitalists, a war which can and will strangle them 
effectively and promptly. 

He aroused the bourgeois press in Geneva and Lau- 
sanne against him after he publicly appealed in Geneva 

1 Published in La Revolution Prol etanenne, 8th year, No. 123, January 



Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

to the all-powerful force of Labour, which does not know 
its own strength yet would only need to stand and show 
itself for the whole of human exploitation to crumble. I know 
that Camille Drevet, secretary general of the Women’s Inter- 
national League for Peace and Liberty had the whole Geneva 
meeting taken down in shorthand. For the Lausanne meet- 
ings (there were three in succession) I fear this may not 
have been done, which would be a pity, as in the private 
discussion between Gandhi and Cdresole (of the International 
Civil Service), Gandhi had some harsh truths to set against 
the thesis of Cerdsole and Einstein; he argued that the refu- 
sal of military service was only a secondary episode in the 
real fight which needs to be fought, which involves a total 
refusal to co-operate with the exploiting and militarist State 
of today; refusal to pay taxes, refusal to hold posts, refusal 
even of the apparent or superficial social benefits which 
the State confers or claims to confer upon the community. 

. . . There must be a total void round the State, making 
it impossible to breathe. The calm with which this quiet- 
voiced little man dictated his orders, which he is prepared 
to apply himself and to impose strictly on his army of 
“Non-acceptance”, added greatly to the powerful impres- 
sion he made. But since then, bourgeois opinion has been 
unleashed against him. Some papers in the Vaud have 
even gone so far as to denounce him as an accomplice of 
Moscow, in Switzerland to disarm her and hand her over 
defenceless to the machinations of the Communists. . . . 

420. Romain Rolland to Marcel Lob (France) 

Villeneuve, 1 January 1932 

.... Yes, we have been visited by Gandhi; he stay- 
ed five days with us, enough to leave a trail of light in the 
country among the simple people, and unatonable resentment 

Romain Roll and to Foreign Correspondents 


among the bourgeoisie of the League of Nations and the 
Journal de Geneve. He spoke frankly and clearly, in that 
calm voice of his which imposes silence on crowds a thou- 
sand strong, about the two questions of militarism (even, 
indeed particularly, the neutral and “defensive” type) and 
the struggle between capitalism and labour. If he lives 
ten years, we shall see him taking command cf another 
social campaign in India when the national struggle is over. 

I’m sure you’ll have had the sense not to give any 
credence to the false reports about him propagated by the 
Italian Fascist press; there’s not a word of truth in them. 
He was the guest in Rome of an old friend of mine who is 
fundamentally opposed to the regime, and whatever inter- 
views he may have had were always in front of witnesses 
chosen and purposely brought along by himself. He’s 
nothing less than naive; he can see under the mask. Then 
again, in a public meeting in Lausanne, talking about the 
absolute non-co-operation, the total refusal which must be 
proferred to those States which generate armies and hence 
wars, “ even if they have something good in them, as do all states , 
even the worst ”, he casually added: “such as those of Nero or 
Mussolini ”. So if he went to see “Nero”, you can be sure 
that he spoke to him with the imperturbable frankness of 
one of the fishermen of Galilee; and I don’t doubt that 
“Nero” replied, as he did to Tagore’s remark that he was 
horrified by violence, by saying: “Me too.” The worthy 
poet believed it, but the fisher of men is not a poet. He’s 
like you and me, he thinks in prose. . . . 

421. Romain Rolland to Frans Masereel (France) 

Villeneuve , 4 January 1932 

.... Over and above my usual load of responsi- 
bilities and health problems, Gandhi’s arrival caused a 

Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

good bit of commotion. The calm and frail little man (as 
hard as nails in reality) dragged all sorts of odds and ends 
of humanity along in his wake: journalists, disciples, photo- 
graphers, idlers, policemen, politicians, eccentrics- — who all 
conscientiously trampled over my garden for a week and kept 
my telephone ringing from morning till night. Gandhi was 
the only one not bothered by them. The large British secu- 
rity agents — as tall and thickset as your Equihen sailors 
— who didn’t stray an inch from his heels all the way from 
London to Brindisi and were augmented on the way by 
their French, Swiss and Italian colleagues, got their money 
on false pretences, for he says all he thinks out loud to every- 
body. That’s his policy; it isn’t within everyone’s reach, 
though, and you have to be very sure of yourself and the 
three hundred million-strong people following you! I had 
long private conversations with him; he’s absolutely sincere, 
but this doesn’t rule out subtlety and humour. He won’t be 
taken in by any political ruse; he sees under the mask, and 
he laughs, the good toothless laugh of an old dog panting. 

- . . He went off with this laugh on his lips, to unleash the 
revolt of a fifth of humanity. The least thing he expects for 
himself is to be deported, but he hopes for more! He is 
so certain of victory. . . . 

422. Romain Holland to Rene Arcos (France) 

Villeneuv e, 4 January 1932 

.... I should have liked to follow Gandhi to India, 
and he would have liked to take me. 

I’ve just this minute received from Bombay a telegram 
announcing his arrest, along with the other Congress lea- 
ders. It was expected, and he went off laughing — his good 
toothless laugh like a good dog panting — to face deporta- 
tion or death. The latter will probably be spared him, if pos- 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


sible, by the British Government, too well aware of what 
it would cost. But the repression will be cruel, and the reta- 
liation will not be weak. The duel to the end has begun, 
and the Indians are on good form. Hundreds of thousands 
are joyfully prepared to die; they are certain of victory. 

Your reflections on Gandhi at Magic-City need some 
small comments: 1st., don’t forget that Gandhi travelling 
in Europe was not a private individual, but an ambassador 
of the Indian National Congress and acting as its delegate; 
he was the representative of a people, and couldn’t express 
himself in public, while abroad, with the full liberty of a man 
who only has to answer for himself: 2nd., don’t forget 
that, contrary to what we usually see in Europe, Gandhi 
not only avoids saying things he doesn’t put into practice; 
he also invariably surpasses the measured prudence of his 
words by tire boldness of his action. He dreads making pro- 
mises before keeping them, and he laughs at people who are 
full of brave words. But you can be sure that if he lives 
a few more years he will go further than many of our 
most advanced Parisians — including the Communists. 

I had some long conversations with him, and I’ve 
taken precise notes. He’s a man of complete honesty, who 
wouldn’t say a syllable more than he thinks (or better still, 
more than he has experimented with carefully in action) 
but who never stops experimenting and advancing ! His 
mind is in constant evolution, and always in a straight line. 
He keeps an iron discipline over himself and those who 
follow him, and his frail appearance is the only decep- 
tive tiring about him, for he’s as hard as nails; his skinny 
heron-like legs run like the wind, and his calm voice could 
talk for twenty-four hours without a trace of fatigue. I 
also much appreciated the two young Indian secretaries 
who were with him, intellectuals of high worth who have 
given up everything to follow him. I say nothing of his 
great disciple Mira (Miss Slade), an old friend of ours, 


Roma in Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

since it was I who gave her to Gandhi. It was a good 
gift, and he feels its value. . . . 

423. Romain Rolland to Jean-Richard Bloch (France) 

Villeneuve, 4 January '1932 

I don’t see that the whole world is prey to the 

panic of which you speak; it’s just that the teeth of the 
West have suddenly begun to chatter (and high time too!). 
I assure you that the letters I get from young workers 
in Soviet factories are full of joy and confidence, and if 
you’d seen my recent visitor — Gandhi' — you’d have seen a 
perfectly calm and peaceful man. Before I saw him I didn’t 
know his good toothless laugh like an old dog panting. The 
rest of him I knew and merely confirmed; his total since- 
rity all the time, so natural that one wouldn’t think it 
possible that anyone could be different. There’s nothing 
stilted or doctrinaire about him, nothing fixed; his mind 
is still young and lively, and in constant, though patient 
evolution — as much in the social as in the metaphysical 
or religious field. He doesn’t see much value in books, 
but sees a capital importance, almost to the exclusion of 
all else, in experimentation by action. This alone is his 
guide, and he is always ready after some new experience 
honestly to correct the conclusions, always provisional, and 
the rules of action he has deduced from his thirty-five years 
of continuous experiments on human individuals and groups 
• — ever since his starting point in South Africa. I need hardly 
say that he expected to be arrested, even deported, on ar- 
riving in Bombay. His young Indian companions (two men 
with characters and minds of rare worth; intellectuals and 
artists who have sacrificed everything to him) showed the 
same calm joy at the thought of the terrible struggle about 
to begin, which will bring India so many sufferings to 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


endure with open arms. (Not that all arms will remain open 
for long! But I’m only talking here about the Theban Legion 
of hundreds of thousands of non-acceptors.) We had long 
private conversations, of which I took detailed notes. Art 
was not excluded from our thoughts; the fine old chants 
from the Gita and the canticles to Rama and Sita bathed 
the walls of the Villa Olga on more than one evening. 
Gandhi loves them dearly, and in the enforced leisure of his 
imprisonments he made a collection of them, still only in 
manuscript, translating the poems from Sanskrit into Eng- 
lish. On the last evening he asked me to play him some- 
thing by Beethoven; for he knows that Beethoven was the 
link between his great European disciple Mira (Miss 
Slade) and myself, who then did the same between her and 
Gandhi. So all three of us brought our gratitude back to 

His two meetings in Geneva and Lausanne caused 
splutterings of rage from the bourgeoisie of the main Erench 
Swiss papers and the League of Nations. He said straight 
out what he thought, not only about militarism, but even 
about the struggle between capital and labour. If he’d 
meant to stay a few days more, I’m sure they’d have refused 
him any more public assemblies. The Montreux gutter 
press, in a rage, said on the day he left that the best thing 
he did in Switzerland was to clear out! But he left his im- 
print in the minds of hundreds of simple people; I know 
something of it from all the letters that have passed through 
my hands. It’s worth noting too that the old pastoral 
Switzerland at once thrilled to the voice of the Himalayan 
goatherd. The dairymen’s union in Vevey sent me a pom- 
pous address, saying they hoped to have the honour of 
“ purveying to the King of India ” (sic ) ! during his stay by Lake 

I told you that Gandhi’s laugh was the only new dis- 
covery I made about him. There’s another, though; the 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

frail appearance of the little man is the only thing about 
him- that’s deceptive. He’s as hard as nails. He runs along 
on his skinny legs like a deer, and he could talk to crowds 
for twenty-four hours at a stretch without a crack in his 
voice or in his train of thought. If no one kills him, he 
hasn’t reached the end of his battles. We would do well to 
draw inspiration from his recipes for mental and dietary 
hygiene; a “silence day” every week, and goat’s milk and 
raw vegetables. That’s how he has deadened his excessive 
nervous tension. . . . 

424. Romain Holland to Marianne Rauze (France) 

Villeneuve , 9 January 1932 

.... There’s no sense in the report, and Werner 
Zimmermann has no competence to speak in the name of 
Gandhi, who’s no more interested in his “franchism” than 
in his “nudism”. 

.... Gandhi foresaw the failure of the Round Table 
Conference in advance. It was inevitable, since Gandhi, as 
the delegate of the National Congress of All India, had 
come to demand absolute independence and autonomy for 
India, not just dominion status any more. This is clear 
from the series of debates in the Young India weekly, or in the 
Manchester Guardian weekly. . . . 

425. Romain Holland to Re Meynard (France) 

Villeneuve, 17 January 1932 

.... Until today we have still been able to receive 
direct and detailed reports from our Indian friends, but it 
is probable that this will soon be cut off, if it hasn’t already 
happened. The supreme battle is joined. Gandhi has 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


exhausted the last attempts at conciliation. Alea jacta est. Eng- 
land wanted the fight, and England will have it. There’s 
nothing to fear at present for Gandhi’s life; the British Gov- 
ernment isn’t so stupid as not to realize that he’s the best 
card to have up their sleeve in case of defeat. With Gan- 
dhi dead, India would be redoubtable ; he is the tiger-tamer. 
But it shouldn’t be thought that Gandhi’s friends, and parti- 
cularly Gandhi himself, appreciate this immunity very much ! 
If it were to last, he’d find it as bitter as Tolstoy found his 
when the Tolstoyans were being deported or hanged. But 
Gandhi is more energetic than Tolstoy, and will always find 
a way to share in the dangers of his people; his warmest 
desire is to be killed at the head of his army of non-violent 
non-acceptors. I wish it for him too' — as the crown of his 
life and for the good of the world, in which no true progress 
can be achieved without the sacrifice of the best men. . . . 

426. Romain Rolland to Ferenc Hugai (Hungary) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
20 January 1932 

. . . .You know that last month I had a visit from 
Gandhi, who stopped five days with me before returning to 
India. I found in him not only a wise man, but a good and 
gay companion, joining subtlety and humour to firmness 
of mind. . . . 

427. Romain Rolland to Waldo Frank (TJ.S.A.) 

Villeneuve {Vaud) Villa Olga 
26 January 1932 

.... In the eyes of thousands of men who at the 
present moment consider it intolerable to maintain the present 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

capitalist and imperialist society and have resolved to 
change it, the great and ambitious Indian experiment with 
Satyagraha is the only chance open to the world of achieving 
this transformation of humanity without having recourse to 
violence. If it fails, there will be no other outlet for human 
history than violence. It’s either Gandhi or Lenin! In any 
case , social justice must be achieved . . . . 

428. Romain Rolland to Edouard Schneider (France) 

Villeneuve , 27 January 1932 

.... I should like to reply briefly to your last letter. 
I feel far removed from your way of thought, which, like 
that of most French intellectuals, is far too passive, discou- 
raged before going into action and following the line of 
least resistance. It may well be that the average French- 
man is far removed from the heroism of Gandhi, or indeed 
of Lenin; the average has always been what was represen- 
ted in the French Revolution by the “Marais”. But it’s not 
the role of the men of the summits' — whether they’re moun- 
tains or just hills- — to resign themselves to what goes on in 
the marshes. If they do (and that’s what they are doing 
in the West today), then I don’t care any more about the 
West, and the Fates that lead the species won’t care about 
it any more than me; they’ll trample the whole lot under- 
foot, and a good job too. It was only yesterday that I was 
writing to an English friend upset about events in India: 
“In the eyes of thousands — thousands of men who at the 
present moment find it intolerable to maintain the present 
society and have resolved on ‘social change or death!’, the 
great and ambitious Indian experiment with Satyagraha is 
the only chance open to the world of achieving this transfor- 
mation of humanity without having recourse to violence. It’s 
either Gandhi or Lenin! In any case, social justice must be 
achieved! ...” 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


429. Romain Holland to Esther Marchand (France) 

Villeneuve, 29 January 1932 

.... Don’t worry about Gandhi! Prison is his time 
for rest and reading, and there’s nothing better for his 
health. His young companions who came here were waiting 
impatiently for their own arrest as a holiday period. The two 
secretaries, Mahadev Desai and Pyarelal (two very artistic 
and refined men) said to me: “I’m setting aside your books 
on Beethoven for that time in the cells.” It’s the rank and file 
that are to be pitied. There, as here, the big names are treat- 
ed respectfully, but in the countryside, where there’s no fear 
of witnesses, the Gandhist masses are treated with brutality. 
All the news reports arc sifted; the European press publishes 
next to nothing, and what it does publish comes from the 
British Service. I’m giving a Letter from India in the next 
number of Europe , based on my personal sources of infor- 
mation. . . . 

430. Romain. Holland to Edmond Privat (Switzerland) 

Villeneuve , 29 January 1932 

.... I’m reading your articles in the local papers, and 
that’s about all the information to be found in the continental 
press. They’re keeping the silence marvellously well (the same 
goes for the radio; it’s always arranged so that time runs out 
before they get round to the Indian news). Everything is 
sifted. Working from my own resources, I’m publishing 
a Letter from India in the 15 February Europe and in some 
American reviews. 


Romam Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

.... When you come back, would you be so good as 
to bring us No. 52 of Young India which we missed. It dates 
from last December and relates the closing stages of the 
stay in London. 

I don’t know whether Bapu is allowed to have books 
about questions unrelated to the Indian movement' — or 
whether he really wants to get to know the problem of 
Italian Fascism, as he told me he did. I have quite a little 
library of documents in French and English on the subject. 
The question of Fascist syndicalism and pseudo-popular insti- 
tutions is one of those'’ on which Rome has put out most 
bluff. Bapu has better things to do now than to bother with 
European conflicts, but sooner or later it’s essential that he 
should clarify his thought on these questions so essential for 
us in Europe; for there must be no risk of his being classed, 
on some misunderstanding, among the adversaries of those 
Europeans who represent and fight, not without suffering, 
for his ideas or for ideas related to them. I have already seen 
only too clearly that in France and Italy there have been 
unfortunate repercussions arising from his visit to Italy. I’m 
sorry to insist on this. . . . 

431. Romam Rolland to Erich Schramm (Germany) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
31 January 1932 

Thank you for your photographs of Gandhi and the 
article of which you were good enough to send me a copy. 
I gladly authorize you to publish it. 

.... In return for your photographs I am sending 
you one by the photographer Rod. Schlemmer of Montreux, 
showing me with Gandhi in my study. 

In the next number of the Parisian review Europe 
(15 February) I am publishing a Letter from India , based on 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


the direct reports that I’ve been able to get secretly from 
our Indian friends. I shall try to take it further in the 
following months. The whole European press is fed (on 
Indian matters) with nothing but British propaganda, which 
sifts and distorts the news. The fact is that India is in a state 
of siege and under a reign of terror; Reginald Reynolds 
in the last number of Unity could even speak of the “English 
Tsarism in Bengal!” Masses of people are going to prison, 
and Civil Resistance is going heroically on its way. What a 
great experiment for the world! It will decide all future 
methods of social action. It’s either Gandhi or Lenin; there 
will be no other choice. The two different routes lead to 
the same goal; the overthrow of the evil old order, and the 
institution of social justice. . . . 

432. Romain Holland to Henry Prnnieres (France) 

Villeneuve , 2 February 1932 

.... As you may know, I had a visit from Gandhi, 
who stayed five days with me last December. Some day I 
shall have conversations with him to relate. For the moment 
I am going to try to give a monthly letter from India in 
Europe, based on personal reports from my Indian friends. 
How much longer will they succeed in reaching me, though? 
India is in a state of siege, and some provinces, such as Ben- 
gal, are being subjected to terrorism from the government. 
But all this was foreseen by Gandhi and bis lieutenants, and 
the great experiment goes on. It will have grave consequen- 
ces for the rest of the world. It may be the last brake which 
is still restraining the outburst of violence in the universal 
social struggle. For whatever anyone does now, this struggle 
cannot be avoided. The old society is condemned; it’s dig- 
ging its own grave. The present is a hard time to live 
through. But humanity has seen plenty of such things! Once 


Romain. Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

again it will learn how to adapt to new climates, how to 
find in them a way of life and a source of joy. I am not 
worried about the future. . . . 

433, Romain Rolland to Georges Bouche— Villeneuve 


Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
9 February 1932 

.... Thank you for your trust. Such a confession, 
which does you credit, is rare among men of your social 
situation, although I believe this latent distress is present in 
many people who prefer not to look at it. 

If we were in India, this problem of conscience would 
be very simply solved. It is universally admitted there 
that, as part of the natural development of every man’s life, 
when he approaches fifty and has fulfilled his duty to his 
family and to society, he has the right to fulfil his duty to 
his inner God. He withdraws from the world and devotes him- 
self to meditation. Or else, since the days of the new spirit 
springing from religious teachers like Vivekananda and 
Gandhi, who stimulated the great Indian awakening — since 
this spirit has turned the energies of contemplation towards 
social service, following the bold formula: “If you want to 
reach God , serve manl ” — each man, freed from the bonds of 
family life, profession and clan, can devote himself to a 
higher and more universal kind of service. Western man has 
not conquered this right — or has lost it through centuries 
of living in a bourgeois society too rigidly enclosed in its 
own framework. You know that even a man like Tolstoy 
could not break free of it except by death. 

I believe that this, among many others, is one of the 
causes of the social malaise which will sooner or later bring 
about a reshaping of the framework of society. Modern 

Homain Holland, to Foreign Correspondents 


Western man — whatever his appearances of happiness and 
success — in most cases dies unsatisfied, for he has not ful- 
filled some of the most profound demands of his nature. 

There is no remedy at present, other than the very fact 
of a clear understanding of the state he is in and some veiled 
recourse to the inner life. But one can orientate oneself in 
the direction which the future broadening of society will 
take, and there's more than one way of working towards 
this. The cardinal rule, above all others, is and must be the 
truth. One must be true, and true to oneself first of all. 

I recently had occasion to discuss this at length with 
Gandhi. You remember the duel which Tolstoy fought within 
himself, to the very last, between Truth and Hove. This duel 
does not occur with Gandhi, who cut through the whole 
question long ago. Truth is the sole master. In the past, 
Gandhi used to say: “God is Truth” About two years ago, 
after a moral revolution gradually prepared by broad and 
patient experimentation, he reversed his formula, to say: 
“Truth is God”- which includes the sincere atheist and the 
free man of science. To test him further, I dwelt on the 
dangers for the weak in a truth which is too strong or too 
new. Gandhi did not falter, and found himself agreeing with 
a Goethe maxim which I quoted to him: “All laws and all 
moral rules come back to one things Truth”; also with the rea- 
sons given by Goethe: CQ A harmful truth is useful , because it 
can harm only for a moment and it then leads to other truths which 
will be ever more useful ; while a useful error is harmful , because 
it can be useful only for a moment and it leads us astray into other 
errors which will be ever more harmful T I have made my choice, 
too. . . . 


Rortxain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

434* Romain Rolland to Esther Marchand (France) 

Villeneuve, 9 March 1932 

.... I have received your letter about Miss Slade, 
and you’re quite right. I first knew her in London, about 
1922 or 1923, during the 1st Congress of the PEN Club; 
she wasn’t on the Congress, but she took the chance to 
make contact with me. She was much concerned with music 
then, and passing through some very difficult years of crisis. 
She’s an excessively proud and passionate nature, and she 
asked my advice. She came to see me in Vilieneuve, and I 
turned her attention towards Gandhi. She submitted her- 
self to one or two years of harsh self-examination, then she 
took her decision and offered her services to Gandhi, who 
imposed another year of waiting on her and, when she came 
to India, a long and harsh discipline before finally accept- 
ing her. Now she has become his right arm in the Ahme- 
dabad Ashram, and she’s a popular figure all over India. 

Edmond Privat and his wife, just back these last few 
days from India, where they went with Gandhi and were 
present at his arrest, travelled all over the country and talk- 
ed to the Viceroy, say that 95 per cent of all India — 
Hindus, Muslims, Parsees, etc., — are now siding wirh 
Gandhi. The repressive measures (whose violence and, fre- 
quently, ignominy are carefully veiled in Europe) have 
caused the moderates and loyalists to form a coalition against 
England with the Gandhists. . . . 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


435. Romain Roll and to Re Meynard (France) 

Villeneuve, 18 March 1932 

.... If you can get hold of the last two months 5 
copies of Europe , you will be able to read my Letters from 
India, based on reports which reach me secretly. There are 
about 60,000 people in prison: there is a state of siege in 
many provinces, and the soldiery is perpetrating all sorts of 
brutalities. But the spirit of India is unshaken. You shouldn’t 
form too many illusions on Gandhi’s "gentleness”. All those 
who know h’m, and his closest disciples, say that when he 
deems it necessary he is terribly hard, but without ever rais- 
ing his voice by the slightest degree. Anyone who leads a 
people or a party must be capable of holding them with an 
iron hand, and you know that Jesus Christ himself “was 
no sugar daddy”, if we believe what Nicolas Poussin said 
to the Jesuit fathers who wanted him to portray Christ 
with an angelic smile. . . . 

436. Romain Rolland to Laden. Roth (France) 

22 March 1932 

.... Just recently (10 March) Gorki wrote to me 
from Sorrento: “Our old age is a fine age! For it coincides with 
the rebbth of the new young forces of the universe .” 

He is happier than we are; naturally enough, for he 
can see the youth in the eyes of his strong and victorious 
people. But since he is happy, we are happy too; we have 
the same reasons for it, and there’s more merit in it in the 
depths of our West. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

It’s agreed that on no account can we allow this new 
world to be attacked without taking our stance on its side, 
as you write in your last letter. But here exactly is a case 
in which Gandhi’s Non-acceptance, if the working-class people 
of France could really understand and apply it, could be 
more effective than an armed revolt. For what would happen 
if the workers in the factories and shipyards were to declare 
a total strike, as Gandhi’s inflexible discipline would demand 
in such a case? The men in the army are no longer the 
main element in modern warfare; what counts is armaments, 
cannon, tanks, explosives, gas. All this is in the hands of 
the working people. If they knew how to say “No!” there’d 
be nothing to hold out against them. 

No, I don’t believe there’s anyone yet in France in a 
position to write the story of my relationship with Non- 
acceptance ffor Heaven’s sake, don’t keep using that word 
non-violence, which I’m killing myself trying to weed out of 
the true language of Gandhism; how could one describe 
the total strike of 300 million Indians, if carried out in the 
way Gandhi desires, other than as the supreme violence, 
which without noise and without fuss takes away air and life 
from hundreds of thousands of foreign parasites!). No, I 
don’t believe that this story can yet be written; for I don’t 
believe that anyone — even among my closest friends— yet 
kn ows or understands my true thought on the subject; 

I shall have to write it myself, and I hope I shall have 
time. It is very necessary for me to make some general col- 
lection of the articles and addresses which I have publish- 
ed in various places since 1920, and to retrace the story of 
my inner evolution in an essay which will form a sequel 
to my Adieu au Passi. I’m thinking aboui this project this 
year. But the conclusion of JJ Ame EnchanUe is taking up 
all my strength, and I have so little strength (and above 
all so little time) that I must wait until I’ve finished it before 
I can pass on to this other task. Meanwhile, the Indian 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


Resistance (don’t say Non-resistance!) is giving me an im- 
mense experiment to observe, whose development and con- 
clusion are bound to have a crucial effect on how we envi- 
sage the social combat which we and our fellows must 
carry out in Europe, and on the value of the various tac- 
tics to be used. To decide these questions in advance would 
be the action of a man of dogmas and faith, not of an 
experimenter. There’s no substitute for direct observation of 
facts, and one of the greatest facts in human history is at 
present in progress. Let us watch what’s going on! . . . 

437. Romain Rolland to Marcel Dichamp (France) 

Villeneuve (Vaud) Villa Olga 
17 May 1932 

.... I can’t give you a reply about Gandhi, as I’m 
short of time; just two words. Yes, I did talk to him about 
the U.S.S.R. — but do try and get a clear idea of his task, 
which is immense! He has three hundred million men to 
lead to victory and liberty, and these countless peoples have 
their own age-old body of thought, profound and many- 
formed. They need time to be brought to understand the 
thought of those other peoples, the hundred and fifty mil- 
lions of the U.S.S.R. At the moment they haven’t the time; 
first let them achieve their own victory, then we shall see. 
It would be wrong to disperse their forces in the thick of 
the battle. 

But this I can tell you: Gandhi’s intelligence is always 
free, fresh and ready to evolve towards a greater truth; all he 
needs is to examine things with his own eyes and his own 
hands, and to make his own experiments; he doesn’t believe 
in books, or even in what friends tell him. He’s right; 
one has to check everything oneself. If he lives ten years, 
he’ll go far. In any case he has lieutenants who go beyond 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

him, such as Jawaharlal Nehru, whom I know and whom 
he esteems. Be patient! First let them liberate India! That 
in itself is no mean task. . . . 

438. Romain Holland to Erich Schramm (Germany) 

Saturday , 2 July 1932 

.... As to matters concerning India, here are two 
addresses which may help you: Mme. Louise Guievsse (at 
the head of the society of the “Fiiends of Gandhi ”): 166 Bd. 
Montparnasse, Paris, and the Pro-India League — (headed by 
M. Roger Lievens, a writer) — 77 Rue de Pont-d’lle, Lidge, 
Belgium. I think Mme. Guieysse will be able to tell you 
something about the Khaddar. . . . 

439. Romain Rolland to Charles Baudouin 
( Switzerland) 

Villeneuve, 28 September 1932 

.... I’m glad you’re going to speak at the pro- 
Indian demonstration on 6 October; Pm sure what you say 
will go to the heart of the matter. It’s no place to speak 
about a political problem: the British public (even the Qua- 
kers) is all too inclined to believe that this policy is a 
domestic, interior matter and that the foreigner has no 
business with it. What does touch them is when they’re 
shown that the problem of Gandhi and Satyagraha concerns 
the fate of every thinking man, the whole destiny of huma- 
nity, and immediately, not just in the distant future. No 
one could talk better about this than you could. . . . 

Remain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


440. Romain Rolland to Hedwige Petzold (Austria) 

Villeneuve, 30 September 1932 

.... Thank you for sharing in our joy at Gandhi’s 
victory ► — particularly at the fact that his life is saved, for 
it came very close to being sacrificed. The people here (in 
Switzerland and France) have very little notion of the im- 
portance of this life. For the pro-Indian meeting being 
organized in Geneva for 6 October, they couldn’t get any 
famous French writer interested, apart from the excellent 
Charles Baudouin. . . . 

441. Romain Rolland to Reginald Reynolds 
(Great Britain) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
9 October 1932 

.... Thank you for taking the trouble to do a 
French translation of your brochure, which we needed so 
much to give us an exact idea of the precedents explain- 
ing Gandhi’s great fast. 

I’m sending you a copy of the text 1 by me which was 
read at the Indian day in Geneva, on 6 October. . . . 

1 See item no. 461. 


Roma in Holland and Gandhi s Correspondence 

442. Romain Holland to Professor P. Kiruchine 

27 December 1932 

This is my reply to Prof. P. Kiruchine (or Kirjusin), 
who writes to me (18 December) about Gandhi (he knows 
and has studied my books, and knows I am an “ admirer 
of Gandhi , the organizer of a new religion and a great deceiver of 
the masses of the Indian people ”, and he asks me about my 
present relationship with him) : 

You know the way I think about Gandhi; I have had 
no occasion to modify it after meeting him in the flesh 
during his passage through Switzerland in December 1931, 
when he stopped five days with me. Whatever judgment his 
enemies may pass on his ideas, his person and his charac- 
ter must inspire respect. His honesty and sincerity are above 
all suspicion. He may deceive himself, but he never know- 
ingly deceives others. Also, in any judgment passed on 
him, this one essential reality must be borne in mind: he 
is in constant evolution. There’s nothing fixed about him, no- 
thing settled once and for all. He readily admits the inade- 
quacy of his knowledge in some fields, and is always ready 
to correct and to fill the gaps, but less by means of books 
than through direct experience of the facts. This has always 
been his method of self-instruction and action; direct social 
experimentation, repeated and verified, step by step, and 
broadening his circle at each step. There’s no doubt that his 
thoughts have been modified in the course of these experi- 
ments. By way of a symbolic example, let me quote you a 
thing he admits himself, his transformation four or five years 
ago of an ideological formula dear to him: “God is Truth”, 
into: “Truth is God”, which is his present motto. This 

Romain Roll and to Foreign Correspondents 


reversal of the same formula may seem too abstract and (in 
appearance) absolute, but it none the less marks an impor- 
tant change of direction, and is an open door to accepting 
all truth controlled by experiment. Besides, if you’d read 
my preface to his Autobiography , you’d have seen (pages XII 
and XIII of Rieder’s French edition) in the quotations from 
Gandhi’s works that he always gives a relativistic and transi- 
tory character to his “experiments”: “Far be it from me to 
claim any degree of perfection for my experiments. I claim for 
them nothing more than does a scientist j who, though he conducts 
his experiments with the utmost accuracy, forethought and minute- 
ness, never claims any finality about his conclusions, but keeps 
an open mind regarding them. . . 

This is certainly how he appeared to me in my con- 
versations with him: modest and strong, attentively testing a 
great hypothesis of social action and going forward from one 
experiment to the next on the basis of observed facts, but 
always ready to welcome other experiments and to modify 
his action accordingly after checking them. If his life (of 
which he has not taken sufficient care) lasts for ten more 
years, I believe we shall see him taldng great steps for- 
ward in the social order, and after the fight against the capital- 
ist imperialism of the British Empire, we shall see him lead- 
ing the fight of the Indian masses against the capitalist 
imperialism of India. If anyone finds this evolution unex- 
pected, then they haven’t taken the trouble to get to 
know him. Though his present battle-tactics avoid breaking 
the united front of all India against England, he has al- 
ready given sufficiently clear expression, in clear and threa- 
tening terms (even in London, at the Round Table), to 
his future attitude towards Indian capitalism. 

If I have time, I shall add to my book on Gandhi 
which was written in 1922 and is no longer up to date. In 
ten years, Gandhi’s experience has much broadened, and I 
consider (as he does himself) that he is still only half-way 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

to his goal. He is, in his own words, “ a humble (and tenaci- 
ous) seeker after truth”, who never strays off the scent. . . . 

443. Romain Rolland to Emile Bauchet (France) 

Tuesday , 21 March 1933 

.... I don’t agree with you in your interpretation of 
Gandhism — a subject which I think I know. 

Gandhism is essentially religious, like early Christia- 
nity; and as I see it, conscientious objection cannot achieve 
complete effectiveness unless it is religious in the broadest 
sense of the word, unless it believes in the absolute value 
of the soul and the conscience. 

The true Gandhist does not say that the State has no 
right to seize the goods and person of its citizens in the name 
of public utility or the law of the land. The true Gan- 
dhist says that the non-violent man must withhold his 
person and property from any use, direct or indirect, which 
the State wishes to make of them for purposes of warfare. 
So it’s more accurate to say that he must face up to 
imprisonment and confiscation, and his example must be 
followed by those who think like him — until the State, which 
is, or must be, the representative of the community of 
citizens, is shaken by their refusal and gives way to them, 
enabling them to set up other laws more in accordance with 
their faith in non-violence. But the road which leads to 
this point is necessarily one of suffering; prison, confisca- 
tion, and the rest. 

This is why I say that no one can follow this road 
without some sort of religious conviction assuring them that 
the true values are spiritual and that nothing must be 
allowed to infringe them. 

I am very much afraid that most of today’s French 
conscientious objectors are not aware of this and are clinging 

Remain Holland, to Foreign Correspondents 


to the most practical — or rather “pseudo-practical” — 
notion of it, encouraged by the illusory hopes which Einstein 
fosters. I very much wish that this illusion could be dis- 
pelled, not at all so as to undermine the faith of the strong, 
but so as to separate the strong from the weak, and to avoid 
deceiving the latter, whose illusions, once shattered , by 
harsh facts, could well turn into despair and anger against 
those who misled them. 

The illusion would be to believe that violence and war 
will be crippled by the refusal of the non-violent, that they 
will be like a fire which goes out for lack of fuel. In fact 
they won’t be burned out until after a period of terrible 
conflagrations in which the first generation of the non-vio- 
lent will suffer cruelly. They will not be extinguished unless 
this sacrificed generation has the courage to undergo these 
ordeals without flinching. I want it to see clearly what is in 
store for it. 

It must not think that a foreign invasion by hordes made 
fanatical by modern Fascist movements — •Mussolini or Hitler 
• — will have the least respect for their passivity. The name- 
less brutalities which they perpetrate on their non-resisting 
compatriots are a foretaste of what savage things they will 
do on the territory they invade. Will the non-violent have 
the religious heroism of the first Christians, who submitted 
to everything in order to affirm their faith? This is what 
they must have, or will to have. Without it, their moral 
defeat would add even more to the insolent triumph of un- 
restrained violence. 

Don’t accuse me of sowing alarm and despondency 
among the young army of the non-violent! I want them to 
be conscious of what sort of road they are taking, and 
determined to face up to everything but without any silly 
wishy-washy illusions. It’s better to have just a handful of 
clear-sighted and heroic objectors than a host of weak self- 
deceivers who will be swept away by the first storm gusts! 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

We have entered into an era of savage energy, and we must 
face it with well-tried legions. Let the non-violent see how 
tough they are, and admit no one into their ranks who is 
not prepared for non-violent conflict even unto death! 
Gandhi, our master, has said that he prefers sincere and 
courageous practitioners of violence to the non-violent who 
are cowardly or unaware of the implications. Be clear 
about what you want and what you can achieve! Sort out 
the sheep from the goats! . . . 

444. Romain Holland to Reginald Reynolds 
(Great Britain) 

Spiez {Thun) Park Hotel 
Wednesday , 12 July 1933 

.... I left Villeneuve ten days ago. I am unwell, 
and have been ordered to rest for three months, but your 
appeal, which reached me yesterday evening, cannot go 
unanswered, and I am sending you, in haste, the follow- 
ing pages. I hope they will reach you in time for your 
meeting on the 15th. 

Naturally as I’m away from home I can’t put my 
hands on the quotations from Young India to which I allude 
in the attached letter. No doubt you’ll be able to find 
the exact text. . . . 

Text Attached to This Letter 

.... It seems to me that it is high time to leave the 
field of sterile ideology. In the world of action, the choice 
is not, alas, between absolute non-violence and absolute 
violence, but between a greater or lesser degree of violence 
exercised on men by the facts of the situation. 

Even Indian Satyagraha is not exempt from a latent 
violence, whose effects are no less redoubtable than those 

Romain Rolland to Foreign. Correspondents 


of armed combat. For the great Refusal of a whole people 
has the effect of a pneumatic machine; it pumps away the 
air which gives life to the adversary. 

I may add that those who, like yourself, are closely 
acquainted with Gandhi have been able to follow (in the 
discussions in Toung India shortly before the salt campaign) 
the evolution of the Mahatma’s active thought. Ten years or 
so ago, he suspended his whole movement because there had 
been some acts of violence at Chauri Ghaura. But when, 
on the point of unleashing a new movement, it was 
pointed out to him that there may be more Chauri Chauras, 
lie overruled the objection, saying he hoped that now he 
could avoid all violence with better organized troops — but 
if nevertheless such acts of violence did take place, they 
would still not stop his activities, for he knew that they 
would be a lesser evil, a lesser violence than the violence 
which would break out if he and his followers did not 
act; for by not acting they would leave the field free for 
the unrestrained savage forces of violence. 

We must face up like men to the necessities of action 
and the consequences of the decisions we take. If we want 
to fight effectively against war, it is simply not enough 
for a conscientious elite to refuse war as individuals. From 
the very first steps we take into action, we inevitably come 
up against the constraint which must be exercised on the 
munitions industries and their lines of communication. 
Above all else we must disarm war, break its limbs. 

This cannot be done without mass strikes by the factory, 
dock and transport workers. Now in time of war these will 
immediately be mobilized, and any refusal on their part will 
thus constitute an insurrection, a military revolt, which 
will be open to the most pitiless forms of repression. Do 
you really believe that these workers will let themselves be 
crushed without resistance? Even admitting that the reli- 
gious ideal would be that they should allow themselves to 


Romain Rolland and Gandlii : Correspondence 

be massacred without lifting a hand in self-defence (except 
by making the sign of the cross), like the Theban Legion of 
antiquity, do you feel equal to the task of inspiring this 
heroic self-sacrificial faith among them? Preach it to them,, 
if you can, and share their fate ! But if you cannot spread 
it further than a few minorities of believers, can you demand 
that thousands of others who do not have this faith to 
support them should refrain from countering violence by 
violence and will you dare to disavow them? In that case, 
it would be more honourable never to unleash these strikes 
and movements of collective refusal, for once they are 
unleashed you must take the consequences, and whether 
you like it or not, you must bear the responsibility just as 
Gandhi has always done. 

It’s one thing or the other; either say that the Kingdom 
of God is not of this world and withdraw from action, be 
resigned and stay in your dream, or else, if you are 
determined to carry the Kingdom of God into this world, 
accept the necessities of action! War today is the most 
destructive hydra that threatens the very existence of our 
common humanity. The worldwide battle against war is the 
most urgent social necessity, and no honest man who is 
sound in mind and limb can withdraw from it. But this 
battle- cannot be fought effectively without the co-operation 
of elements which have evolved in different ways — non- 
violent and violent. We must try to organize them; let the 
best, the most highly evolved, seek to guide the others! 
But we must all be manly enough openly to accept our 
responsibilities in this common struggle against the common 
enemy of all human civilization! It is up to us to make 
an alliance with all sincere and courageous groups who 
are ready to sacrifice themselves fighting for the salvation 
of humanity. 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


445. Romain Rolland to Leon Her bos (Belgium) 

22 July 1933 

.... No, I did not receive the reply you mention, 
in the war. But thank you for your letter today which I 
find most touching. Keep it up! Even though I am sick, 
in my heart I never tire of the daily battle. Gandhi, who 
passed through the Villeneuve countryside two years ago, 
repeated to me his article of faith: “ Truth is God” Our life 
is thus a march towards Truth. It’s a rough climb; one 
needs to be a born mountaineer! . . . 

446. Romain Rolland to Rev. John Haynes Holmes 


Villeneuve ( Vaud ) 
1 November 1933 

.... In the battle against imperialist warfare, let every 
man thus be sincere, and sincerely aware of what he can 
achieve and what he wants to achieve ! And may the little 
cohort of “objectors” and the “non-violent” not condemn 
or repulse the alliance with the oppressed masses who, 
though they do not have the same faith, have the same 
common enemy! Gandhi himself has temporarily placed 
his Satyagraha army at the service of the Indian National 
Congress, the majority of whose members do not believe 
in non-violence, or see it merely as an experimental weapon 
in the great common struggle for Indian independence! 

Satyagraha (non-violent non-acceptance) must, at the 
present moment, be considered from two different points of view: 


Roma in Rolland and. Gandhi : Correspondence 

On the one hand it is, for a small number, an abso- 
lute faith soaring above all conflicts and all their contingen- 
cies, victories and failures; it is a Civitas Dei. 

On the other hand it is, on the level of practical and 
present action, a great experiment which has hardly start- 
ed and whose outcome is distant. . . . 

447. Romain Rolland to Eugene Lagot* (France) 

4 November 1933 

.... You can see for yourself the obstacles and the 
indifference which conscientious objection in France is up 
against, and how slow it is to develop. There’s nothing sur- 
prising about this; it has only just been born on our soil. 
In England it is more than 200 years old. In India it took 
30 years for Gandhi to organize his army of Satyagraha; 
and even in that privileged land, where Ahimsa (non-vio- 
lence) has been an act of faith for centuries, the number of 
non-violent resisters imprisoned in the course of the latest 
campaigns has never totalled more than 100,000 out of 
many hundreds of thousands of Indians who support Con- 
gress in the fight for their country’s independence. (Gandhi 
himself gives the figures in his last Poona declaration, dated 
14 September 1933,) 

.... For the moment, your League’s main efforts 
should be ceaselessly to demand legal recognition of conscien- 
tious objection in France, which it has, under certain condi- 
tions, in some other countries. Such efforts I entirely sup- 
port. But my personal role is to try to be a link between 
the two Revolutions: Gandhi’s and Lenin’s. May the two 
of them work together to overthrow the old world and found 
a new order! . . . 

* Secretary of the French League of Conscientious Objectors (France) 

Romain Holland to Foreign .Correspondents 


448. Romain. Rolland to Marcel Caster (France) 

Villeneuve, 21 March 1934 

.... I am recording the inevitable reply that Asia 
will make to the aggressor, and I am taking my stance in 
the camp of the oppressed. 

Indeed I know that they will become oppressors in 
their turn. The “class war” has done much destruction, and 
will do much more. But what other means is there (in face 
of the absurd short-sightedness of those who believe they 
have force on their side and are making bad use of it) — 
what other means is there of breaking the injustice which 
not only crushes one part of the human race, but dis- 
honours the other half, those who profit by it or let well 
alone because it “doesn’t concern them”! Yes, there is 
Gandhi’s great “experiment” in India. You know how 
passionately I am following it; I was the first to make it 
known in Europe. But this “experiment”, still in progress, 
has been overtaken by the furious course of events. What is 
certain is that outside India, the world has done nothing to 
help it succeed — or worse still, even to allow it to be tried! 

449. Romain Rolland to Lucien Roth (France) 

5 April 1934 

.... I have recently had visits from Albert Schweit- 
zer, back from Africa for a few months, and Pierre Cter<*sole 
(founder and director of the International Civil Service), 
who is leaving for India to put himself and his team at 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Gandhi’s disposal in his task of clearing up the ravages cau- 
sed by the earthquake. These two worthy giants, who remind 
me of a third, Nansen, seemed to be filled with a profound 
pessimism about Europe; they consider her implacably des- 
tined to fall into the depths of her delirium, from which 
no force will be able to save her, and they are going to 
sacrifice their lives to another cause — while waiting for 
destiny to work itself out and for Europe to rise again. . . . 
I don’t believe Nansen would have judged things that way. 
Even though he had no hope, he fell on the European 
battlefield. I am glad to have known all three of them, 
and when I think that I also knew Gandhi, Tagore and 
Tolstoy, and narrowly missed Lenin (whom I must have 
passed several times in Geneva, and even before that in 
Paris), I say to myself that people must be very blind to 
complain of the poverty of our time ! From a distance, 
when they all appear grouped together on the same level, 
people will say that there was no age richer in heroes. 

.... (Edmond Privat has recently brought out a most 
interesting book, published by Attinger of Neuchatel, about 
his journey to India with Gandhi. You would enjoy reading 
it; it’s written with simplicity, frankness and sympathy.) . . . 

450. Romain Rolland to G. Viatkine (U.S.S.R.) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Switzerland 
23 May 1934 

.... I shall reply to your questions as briefly as I can : 

1. Do not confuse Gandhi with Istrati. On no account 
should these two men be classed on the same level. Istrati is 
nothing more than a writer of great talent, with an ardent 
and unruly heart, no judgment, totally lacking in objecti- 
vity, a temperament always carried away by his loves, his 
hatreds and his whims, the prey of events and the people 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


he meets. I came to know him after he tried to commit 
suicide out of despair, I was struck by his artistic genius 
of which he was unaware, I encouraged him to write and 
I got him known. He expressed floods of affection for me, 
then he became irritated with me when I severely con- 
demned his writings against the U.S.S.R.; he attacked me 
in the press and we are no longer on good terms . 1 

Gandhi is completely different. Gandhi is one of the 
highest moral characters, one of the purest and most dis- 
interested I know in the whole world — and I know him 
well; I have followed his life and activities closely over 
forty years. His great character has never proved unworthy 
of itself; I can trust him as well as I can trust myself. As 
to his social role, to appreciate it exactly you need to know 
the real state of India over the last forty years. India was 
in the lowest degree of serfdom and discouragement, and it 
was Gandhi who, by his heroic example (he has often been 
imprisoned, beaten and threatened with death), gave her 
a sense of pride and dignity, and revived in her the powerful 
breath of independence. This was no mean task; imagine 
three hundred million human beings reawakened by the 
tireless propaganda of a frail little man armed only with 
self-abnegation, reason and absolute sincerity. His own 
social education is quite weak; it is based only on his per- 
sonal experience, which is admittedly rich and varied. Gan- 
dhi is a man who reads very little, but he is constantly in 
contact with the people and he never stops testing out in 
action what he believes to be true; if his tests prove him 
wrong, he never hesitates to admit it and he looks for 
another road to social justice and truth. It is because I 
know that this is what he is like that I trust him; he is 
a man always on the move and he never stops. If, without 

1 Shortly before his death, Istrati asked for Romain. Rolland’s for- 
giveness. (M. R. R.’s note) 


Roma in Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

violence, by reason and experiment, he can be shown where 
the truth lies, he will set out towards it, whatever it may 
cost him, but of course not until after convincing himself of 
it by mature examination. Now since his deepest sympathies 
lie with the labouring people, with the millions of disinheri- 
ted and oppressed, I am more or less certain that if he lives 
ten more years, he will put himself at the head of the 
whole movement supporting their claims in India against 
native capitalism and the bourgeoisie. I still enjoy the most 
affectionate of friendly relations with him, and I am trying 
to enlighten him. Even when he is wrong, it is in good 
faith and out of disinterested conviction. No man has 
sacrificed himself more constantly and completely, and his 
sincerity is absolute. Even if circumstances forced me into 
personal conflict with him, I should still venerate his cha- 
racter. . . . 

451. Romain Holland to Foil Nou-En (China) 

Villeneuve (Valid), Switzerland 
Villa Olga 
30 June 1934 

.... We live in an age which has seen the tumul- 
tuous rekindling of the flame of heroism, and with it has 
been revived the cult of the heroes. But this flame some- 
times breaks out into savage fires, and it is important to 
find a precise definition of the “hero”. 

In our times of trials and conflicts for all nations, it is 
not enough to be great for one’s own pride and one’s own 
glory; one must be great for the service of the community. 
The greatest leader is the greatest servant of his people, 
the servant of humanity. 

This is what Sun Yat-Sen, Lenin and Gandhi were, 
and are; also, among those whose genius worked, not through 

Romain Holland to Foreign Correspondents 


action,, but through thought and art, Beethoven and Tol- 

It is this lofty sense of social mission, this profound 
sense of humanity, that must be reawakened — in art as well 
as in action. 

.... It remains to consider which conditions, on the 
level of political action, are the most favourable for the suc- 
cess of such a plan. They are to be found, most certainly, ixi. 
India, where millions of men over the centuries have been 
imbued with the doctrine of Ahimsa (non-violence), and 
where they have found in Gandhi a leader unique in his 
organizing genius, his lucid mind harmonizing practicality 
and faith, and his ascendency over the masses in his coun- 
try. The great experiment he has undertaken will thus be 
decisive for the whole world. It is the most powerful barrier 
that a spiritual hero and his people can erect to protect 
themselves against the era of violence which is building 
up. If the barrier breaks, it is to be feared that violence 
will flood over the whole world for a time, and in such 
circumstances even the wisest men of action can do no 
more than try to direct it — without being able to stop 

lt< t • • 

452. Remain Holland to Ch. Ulrich, 

World Committee against War (France) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ), 21 November 1935 

.... I hope you have received my Appeal for the 
conference on the 23rd. 

I have written to Rabindranath Tagore and to Rama- 
nanda Ghatterjee, passing on your appeal. 

But as for Saumyendranath Tagore, whom I know, 
I see him as a sincere and ardent young man, but much 
too prone to emotional and passionate impulses for one 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

ever to be sure of what he 5 11 do next. I also look upon his 
book against Gandhi as a wrong action and a work which 
is for most of its length inexact or based on facts which 
have been cunningly twisted (in particular there's a certain 
confusion of dates, which in his passion he has mixed 
together without admitting that they belong to different 
periods of a continuing evolution) . Saumyendranath is 
certainly not qualified to ask for ■ the collaboration of Gandhi 
and his friends, among whom I still include myself, though 
I am separated from him (Gandhi) on some essential 
points of social thought and action. . . . 

453. Romain Holland to Lucien Roth (France) 

31 December 1936 

. . . . Gandhi is well. Despite a violent attack of mala- 
ria which he has vigorously overcome, the most recent photo- 
graphs I've seen of him make him look all brisk and reju- 
venated. You say how “sad and bitter" he must feel; but 
such feelings are totally excluded from Gandhi's mind. He 
is a believer, confident and patient, and nothing can shake 
him. Jawaharlal Nehru, whom I know well, his great suc- 
cessor at the head of the Indian movement, is quite a diffe- 
rent character. No less noble in heart and no less pure, but 
free in faith and much more advanced in mind (a declared 
Socialist, on the verge of Communism), this great Indian, 
whom England has furiously attacked and will go on at- 
tacking (though at heart respecting him) has at the same time 
a clear vision of the future and a profound melancholy. . . . 

Romain Rolland to Foreign Correspondents 


454. Romain Rolland to Victor Jourdain (France) 

Villeneuve ( Vaud ) Villa Olga 
1 March 1939 

.... Politics are a terrible business, with very little 
connecting it with ethics. Gandhi’s heroic efforts have been 
directed precisely at marrying the two. I fear that at the 
present moment this may prove a superhuman task. . . . 


Prefaces and Articles 

Prefaces and Articles 


455. Introduction to Young India 1 

The articles in this volume are a selection from the 
immense political production of Mahatma Gandhi, taken 
from the period between 1919 and 1922. 

The reader of this work must not look for art or beauty 
of expression. Gandhi knows its worth, but here he is not 
concerned with art, at least not in the narrower sense of 
the word. His concern is with action, and with action of 
the most powerful and novel kind. If it is an art to steer 
action firmly, like a ship in a storm, towards the most diffi- 
cult and the most glorious of goals, in this sense we may say 
that these writings are art, and of the highest art. 

It is important first to understand the circumstances 
in which they appeared. 

All by himself, laden with the crushing responsibility 
of a people of three hundred million souls differing in race, 
religion and language, most of them uneducated, and nearly 
all of them ultra-emotional, reacting violently at the slight- 
est provocation; a people which he must unify, educate and 
direct,' — having set in motion among these masses an un- 
precedented movement running contrary to the whole of 
the world’s established political wisdom, in which even the 
most slightly miscalculated stimulus can lead to terrible 
catastrophes, — the frail Mahatma with the will of steel must 
hold everything in his hands, must observe, watch and 
command. These are no circumstances in which to polish 
a work of literature, and Gandhi would certainly not have 

1 Gandhi: La Jeune Inde, translated by Helene Hart, Editions Stock, 



Romain Rolland and Gandlii : Correspondence 

dreamed of collecting these articles into an anthology. His 
Hindu publishers brought out this volume during his 
imprisonment. Let us not see it as a book, but as an epic 
of heroic action, illuminated by the flashing sword of the 
last of the knights . 2 

He writes, speaks and acts, without rest or repose. This 
is the tale told by those who have heard him. 

The Mahatma speaks to an audience of thousands. He 
does not raise his voice, nor does he gesticulate, nor does 
he use any of the techniques of oratory. There are no cal- 
culated effects. He begins without exordium and he finishes 
without peroration. When he has said what he has to say, 
be it much or little, he stops and goes away. The crowd roars 
its acclamations, and no one can make himself heard for a 
long time in the din. Gandhi, frowning' — for he hates 
applause and anything noisy — 'goes off to sit in a corner, 
apart from the crowds wildly acclaiming him; he does not 
hear them, and already he is writing the article which will 
appear in the next number of his journal. Young India. 

Those of us who read his article far across the ocean, let 
us listen intently I Underneath the cold words, we shall 
hear in the distance the roars of the Indian people. 

* * * 

Gandhi’s thought seems so clear and explicit, so hostile 
to any veils, reticence, half-statements, anything even remotely 
resembling compromise or dissimulation, tfcjat one would 
have thought it sufficient merely to bring the public into 
■direct contact with it. As he says himself: 

“I have always- evolved the boldest of my plans in broad 
daylight. ... I hate secrecy like a crime. . . . I feel thankful 

2 I make no apologies for applying the word sword to the Indian 
Christ; we shall see that he claims the word himself for his crusade 
of abnegation. 

Prefaces and Articles 


to God that for years past I have come to regard secrecy as a sin, 
especially in politics. . . . JVe should avoid even thinking thoughts 
we would hide from the world! . . ,” 3 

I have all the more reason to retire to the background, 
as I have already commented at length on the Mahatma’s 
mission and the characteristics of his genius in a small 
volume which is now widely available and has been trans- 
lated into every European language and even into three 
Indian languages. I say this without vanity, for the whole 
secret of the universal diffusion of this book lies in the 
radiance of the “Great Soul ” 4 behind whom I made myself 
inconspicuous. This is what I should be doing today as well. 

But since this book appeared, I have had occasion to 
revise the ideas expressed in it, thanks to numerous conver- 
sations and regular correspondence with Indians of all 
parties, European witnesses of his activities in India, and 
even the Mahatma himself, now out of prison. Re-reading 
the articles in this translation, I saw some of his thoughts in 
a new light; I saw their complexity, and in some cases the 
various superimposed levels; their tragic character emerged 
more sharply. I should like to share my new discoveries 
with the reader. Nevertheless what I write here in this intro- 
duction is not a substitute for my more complete study. 
The reader who wants to know about the Mahatma’s life 
should refer to the volume Mahatma Gandhi. 

* * * 

These articles begin, on the Gujarati New Year Day, 
October 1919, by an Appeal to the most heroic moral ener- 
gies of a whole people. After a lifetime of harsh practical 
experimentation and impassioned meditation (he is now 
fifty), Gandhi determined to give his Gospel to India, his 

3 Article dated 22 December 1920: The Sin of Secrecy 

4 This, of course, is the meaning of the name; Mahatma. 


Romain. Rolland and Gandlu : Correspondence 

message of religious action which, opens before his people 
the bloody and glorious way of Satyagraha. For those who 
take the trouble to understand the precise meaning of what 
the Mahatma demands, this means nothing less than calling 
into being a whole people of Christs, sacrificing themselves 
for their salvation and for all humanity. 

Are we, then, witnessing the appearance of a prophet, 
bearing a new religious creed? 

We need to look more closely than this. It is well 
known how averse Gandhi is to all supernatural titles, 
which “ should be ruled out of modem life. He is neither a 
prophet nor a saint; no superman, and with no desire to 
become one. He may, indeed he does, have his personal reli- 
gious creed, but as a “ humble servant of India, and laying claim 
to nothing more ”, he is not imposing any revealed truths on 
his nation. He is looking for, and experimenting with, the 
things which, in the field of direct observation, might save 

This word experiment, which constantly recurs in this 
book , 5 must be underlined. Neither his partisans nor his 
adversaries have grasped it, for on both sides he is dealing 
with passionate men. I have not dwelt on it enough myself. 

Gandhi, whose intellectual horizons stretch far be- 
yond his own land (though India is his first love), who by his 
European education and his twenty-three years out of India 
has acquired a comprehensive vision of the world and its 
present state, has, like many of us, conceived serious doubts 
about the future of humanity. Mankind seems to him to 
be going through a perilous crisis, in which there is no 

5 <c . . . . Like a scientist. I am making experiments about some of the 
eternal verities of life. . . .” (12 May 1920) — “ .... Since 1894 I have been 
experimenting with myself and my friends. . . .” (ibid.) “ The area of India in which 
the experiment ( Civil Disobedience) is going on. . . (10 November 1921). 
“I" not a futile experiment I am conducting ? . . (2 March 1922) etc. 

Prefaces and Articles 


guarantee that the most precious human values will survive. 
This thought allows him no peace, and though he addresses 
himself to India, he is thinking of all mankind, which India 
must save. It is his very love for her, his Indian pride, 
which assigns this fearful duty to his home-land. 

Now there is only one means of salvation that he can 
see, and that is Non-violence. Admittedly this is not the only 
one he has ever considered. No doubt on his own account he 
will use no other, but for present-day humanity, still so back- 
ward, he does not condemn violence in itself; one can even 
say that in the past he agreed to co-operate with it in 
some measure, as he recruited troops for England; in any 
case he was willing for violence to be tried, and all he asks 
of those who have recourse to it today is that they should 
do it honourably and without hypocrisy. He is nevertheless 
convinced, by his long experience, that this course is 
ruinous and will lead mankind to disaster. Violence is a 
road which inevitably opens out on to the abyss. To those 
who would avoid it, the only route left open to them is 

Let there be no misunderstanding; Gandhi is not 
saying that it will save humanity now. He does not know 
whether today’s humanity will be saved . 6 If it is, however, 
it can only be by Non-violence. 

We are dealing with an experiment, the last one. It 
would be a desperate one if, for an Indian hermit who can 
always take refuge in an Infinity more real than this world 
of conflicts, there were not open the possibility of returning 

6 “ Non-co-operation may have come in advance of its time. India and the 
world must then wait. . . .” But this does not detract from its value. 
(1 June 1921) 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

into the “Potter’s divine hands”. 7 

* sic * 

It is worth returning to these features of his thought; 
the Mahatma’s texts themselves show • their tragic intensity. 

He announces at the outset of his campaign (12 May 
1920) that he is a man “who claims only to be a humble sear- 
cher after Truths who knows his limitations , makes mistakes , never 
hesitates to confess them when he makes them and frankly confesses 
that he, like a scientist , is making experiments about some of the 
c eternal verities' of life , but cannot even claim to be a scientist 
because he can show no tangible proof of scientific accuracy in his 
methods , or tangible results of his experiments” . 8 

We are thus not dealing with a Revelation. We are 
dealing with a social hypothesis, a law glimpsed but not yet 
proven, a “new energy” , which he believes he has discovered 
or rather rediscovered after the ancient Rishis, and which 
he compares to electricity. 9 It is the Law of Love, the force 
of Satyagraha . 

7 cc . . . . My intense longing is to lose try self in the Eternal and to 
become merely a lump of clay in the Potter’s divine hands so that my service 
may become more certain because uninterrupted by the baser self in me . . . 

(17 November 1921) 

8 See also: “I only see as « through a glass darkly and therefore have to 

carry conviction by slow and laborious processes and then too not always with 
success. . . (17 November 192L 

9 See the extraordinary article dated 23 June 1919: “ft may be 

long before the Law of Love will be recognized in international affairs . . . - 
Till a new energy is harnessed and put on wheels , the captains of the older 
energies will treat the innovation as theoretical , impractical , idealistic and so 
on. .. . The electrical engineer was no doubt called a faddist and a madman 
in steam-engine circles , till work was actually done over the wires , It may take 
long to lay the wires for international love ; but . . if only we watched the 

latest international developments in Europe and Eastern Asia with an eye to 
essentials , we could see how the world is moving steadily to realize that bet- 
ween nation and nation , as between man and man , force has failed to solve 
problems , but the economic sanction of Non-co-operation is far more mighty 
and conclusive than armies and navies N 

Prefaces and Articles 


On what is it based? On the numerous observations 
collected by Gandhi over twenty-five years, on the asto- 
nishing experiment of South Africa, in which an oppressed 
people managed to wrench the rights which were their due 
away from masters determined to refuse them and in pos- 
session of all the material force; army, law-courts and pub- 
lic opinion whipped up by the press. This experiment, timidly 
begun with a handful of sacrifices, suddenly achieved a for- 
midable impetus: forty thousand men and women offering 
themselves to be sent to prison. And the victory was won 
without any blood being spilt, “ after strenuous discipline in 
self-suffering” . 10 

What, then, is this new weapon which shatters tanks 
and cannon? It is “the sword of self -sacrifice (15 Decem- 
ber 1921). 

Note well this word sword. Gandhi insists on it himself, 
and returns to it several times. He sets it against the 
“ sword of steel ”, blade against blade. Who dares speak of 
passivity, of bleating acceptance? Gandhi is profoundly 
certain that England will not cede to India’s demands 
“until forced to by the sword”. But his invincible sword is a 
people offering themselves to the slaughter. 

What nonsense ever to have confused this paroxysm 
of action with the sheeplike race of passive pacifists! There 
is not a grain of passivity in Gandhi’s nature; everything is 
“ direct action ”. . . . “Nothing has ever been done on this earth 
without direct action .” Not only does this seem to him neces- 
sary for the victory of a cause or of an idea; it is even a 
benefit to the man who resorts to it, a spiritual hygiene; it 

10 20 April 1921 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

gives him a sense of balance, a sense of his strength ; it pre- 
serves him from bitter and sterile vindictiveness . 11 

This is certainly a heroic remedy, but it is not against 
nature. As Gandhi states it, the starting point is an obser- 
vation worthy of a mystic sage on the law of suffering in 
nature: “ Life comes out of Death. The condition of wheat grow- 
ing is that the seed-grain should perish. . . . The law of suffer- 
ing is the one indispensable condition of our being. . . .” All 
we can do is to take it all on ourselves and spare it to our 
enemies. c£ Progress is to be measuied by the amount of suffer- 
ing undergone. . . . The purer the suffering , the greater is the 
progress. . . .” We must “learn to take up suffering voluntarily 
and to find joy in it. . . . Without such suffering, it is not 
possible to attain freedom .” 12 

This shows that the Mahatma is no weakener of energy! 
On the contrary, he submits it to the harshest discipline ever 
imposed on a people. But he inspires in his people an 
ardour which makes them accept it with lightness of heart; 
he exalts them. He stretches human energy to the extreme 
limit, at which the bowstring seems ready to break. But the 
arrow leaping from the bow thus bent will fly far. 

It is understandable that this bowman of Non-violence, 
this sword-bearer of self-sacrifice, has no scorn for honour- 
able advocates of violence — though he condemns their 
error. I quoted in my little book the striking passages in 
which “where there is a choice between ■ cowardice and violence, 

11 “By teaching direct action to the weak party ... I make him feel 
strong and capable of defying the physical might. He feels braced for the strug- 
gle, he regains confidence in himself, and knowing that the remedy lies with 
himself, he ceases to harbour the spirit of revenge. . . .” See the Letter to 
the Viceroy: Non-co-operation, he says, is “ a form of direct action? 

. . . the only derivative from violence. 

16 June 1920 

Prefaces and Articles 


he would advise violence !” He goes even further; he would 
“ advocate training in arms for those who believe in the method of 
violence ”. For violence is another experiment, “an attitude the 
world has been used to for ages past ”; and if it is adopted, at 
least it should be well organized and carried through: thus 
“it would be a manly , honest and sober attitude ” 13 Yes indeed, 
here we see the Rishi of Non-violence applying the word sober 
to violence! It means that, if he rejects violence, it is not 
because his heart falters before the means it uses, but because 
his judgment clearly tells him that violence does not and 
cannot achieve its aims — none of the overwhelming results 
obtained from “Non-violence in its dynamic condition ” which 
means “the putting of one’s whole soul against the will of the 
tyrant. Working under this law of our being it is possible for a 
single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust' empire . . . 
and lay the foundation for that empire’s fall or its regeneration ” 

May we add that as he sounds his trumpet before the 
walls of Jericho, Gandhi is merely resuming the experi- 
ment of the Rishis, those “greater geniuses than Newton, greater 
warriors than Wellington” who “having themselves known the use 
of arms, realized their uselessness, and discovered and taught the 
world the law of Non-violence.” 

* * * 

Non-violence, then, is a battle, and as in all battles — 
however great the general — the issue remains in doubt. The 
experiment which Gandhi is to attempt is terrible, terrifyingly 
dangerous, and he knows it; he fears the fury of the Indian 
populace which he is unleashing more than he fears the 
tyranny of the English adversary. But he must dare. “The 
essence of the experimenter is to dare” Gandhi has learned 
“energy” from the West, and he wants to inject it into India . 14 

13 2 March 1922 

14 25 February 1920 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

— “No general worth the name gives up a battle because he has 
suffered reverses or made mistakes .” He recollects himself, 
meditates, makes his preparations and dares. — Gandhi dares, 
and his daring goes a very long way. In August 1920 he 
refused to wait for the vote of Congress, which represented 
the nation, before initiating his experimental movement of 
Non-co-operation:' — “ When one kas an unshakable faith in a 
particular policy, it would be folly to wait for the Congress pro- 
nouncement (in other words the nation). On the contrary, one 
must act and demonstrate its efficacity, so as to command accep- 
tance by the nation . ...” “ The best way of serving the nation ” 
is sometimes to act against its opinions. 

But suppose he is wrong? Very well, be it on his own 
head! He will be crushed. If he acts outside Congress, ob- 
viously it is not in the name of Congress; it is at his own 
risk and his own peril. He will be able to bear the whole 
responsibility for his defeat. 

“I should no more feel worthy to lead a cause which I 
might feel myself diffident of handling. . . . But the doctrine of 
labouring without attachment is as much a relentless pursuit of 
truth as a retracing after discovery of error, and a renunciation of 
leadership without a pang after discovery of unworthiness . ” 15 

It is not with a light heart that he faces such a possi- 

“Suppose,” he writes, “ that despite all my endeavours none 
of my hopes are realized, should I not feel my unworthiness for lead- 
ing the struggle ? Should I not kneel down in all humility before 
my Maker and ask him to take away this useless body and make 
me a fitter instrument of service? . . ,” 16 

His secret agonies and heartbreaks can well be ima- 
gined. The public confession following the crimes of Chauri 
Chaura reveals one of these painful moments. Yet he picks 

15 17 November 1921 

16 Ibid 

Prefaces and Articles 


himself up again and he never gives in, for he well knows 
that he cannot. The ship which is about to founder cannot 
do without him; he is the pilot, and he must stay at his 
post and continue to dare. His awesome experiment is not 
valid for India alone ; it is for every race of mankind. He 
quotes a very fine saying taken from an unknown Rishi 
of antiquity: 

“ Tatha pinde tatha brahmande ” 

“As it is with a lump of clay, so it is with the whole 

He is experimenting with the lump of clay, and cer- 
tainly he has no illusions about the limits of his power! 
But he does what he has to do ! . . . 

And he holds out his hand to the world, so that all can 
help each other: to the English, to the Christians, even to his 
enemies. Enemies? But he has no enemies. “7o every English- 
man in India” he writes “ Lear friend.” 11 He addresses his 
appeal to the Europeans, and he corresponds affectionately 
with Christians. 18 He is not fighting against them; he is working 

for them, for Christianity itself, which Europe betrays. 

* * 

I have tried to make clear to the reader the nature of 
the battle which has been joined and precisely what is at 
stake. This will make him better able, as he studies the 
book, to appreciate the genius lavished by this “ practical 
idealist ”, as he likes to call himself, on the realization of 
his grand design. He has the gift, very rare among pas- 
sionate believers of being able to read in the thoughts 
of other men. He has the “ polypsychological ” faculty of being 
able to speak to everyone in his own language and, helped 
by a just sense of the difference between people’s natures, 
to appeal to their best forces only within the personal 

17 27 October 1920 

18 15 August, 23 September 1921 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

circle of understanding and action allotted to each indivi- 
dual. This explains why, embracing as he does the whole of 
humanity in his own heart, he speaks the language of 
patriotism to the Sikhs, and as for those who wish to take 
up arms, he teaches them to use those arms for their coun- 
try . 19 As he writes to Tagore, his task is “ altering the meanings 
of old terms , nationalism and patriotism, and extending their scope”. 

Thus he does not even try to realize the complete or 
“ perfect ” Mon-violence, which is his personal faith, but Non- 
violence in the “limited form which alone is possible at pre- 
sent”, in other words the “political non-violence of the non- 
co-operator”, a reasoned method of peaceful and progressive 
revolution leading to Swaraj, Indian Home Rule . 20 

19 See the curious article: “My Inconsistency” , 23 February 1921, 
in which he explains his recruitment campaign in 1914. His faith 
in Ahimsa (Non-violence), he says is absolute. But most men do 
not believe in Ahimsa ; they believe in violence; and yet they refuse 
to do their duty in the world of violence, their national and 
patriotic duty. — “/ explained it to them,” writes Gandhi “I also 
explained the doctrine of Ahimsa to them and let them make their choice, 
which they did. I do not repent. For under Swaraj too (m other words in a 
liberated India) I would not hesitate to advise those who would bear arms 
to do so and fight for their country.” 

Thus when he cannot communicate his faith to others, he helps 
them to clarify their own faith, which will purify (to some degree) 
their unrestrained instincts. 

20 Article on Non-violence. 

See also his remarks about his famous book Hind Swaraj (Indian 
Home Rule): “I would warn the reader against thinking that I am today 
aiming at the Swaraj described therein. I know that India is not ripe for it. . . . 
I am individually working for the self rule pictured therein. But today my 
corporate activity is undoubtedly devoted to the attainment of Parliamentary 
Swaraj in accordance with the wishes of the people of India.” 

Always this vision on several levels, this acute sense of differing 
duties unevenly shared out in the world. No doubt this harmonizes 
with his Hindu conception of different castes and dharmas. 

Prefaces and Articles 


Each of his articles is like a set of battle orders whose 
meaning he is explaining, to his lieutenants, to the main 
body of his army, or even to his enemies, for he thinks it 
is not without value to appeal to the common sense and 
honourability of those against whom he is fighting . 21 

Nothing could be more admirable than the measured 
control with .which in his controversies he allies modera- 
tion of manners and perfect calm and courtesy of expression 
with absolute frankness and implacable assurance . 22 

This gentle and polite man wields a dictatorial autho- 
rity over his armies. Never has a popular leader idolized by 
the crowd spoken of the crowd with more scorn. Some of 
his remarks would not have been disavowed by Shakes- 
peare’s Coriolanus: 

“I have become literally sick of the adoration of the 
unthinking multitude. I would feel certain of my ground if I was 
spat upon by them. . . .” 23 “It is better to be dubbed autocratic 
than even to appear to be influenced by the multitude for the sake 
of its approbation. ... I believe that mere protestation of one's 
opinion is not only not enough but in matters of vital importance 
leaders must act contrary to the mass of opinion if it does not com- 
mend itself to their reason /' 24 

But this heroic scorn covers more genuine love for the 
people than the self-interested flatteries of the demagogue. 
Garidhi believes that a lofty will-power can transform a 
people by fearlessly demanding the harshest sacrifices of 

21 “To every Englishman in India ”: — “/ almost feel tempted to invite 
you to join me in. destroying a system that has dragged both you and us so 
down. . . .” (13 July 1921). 

22 Sec above all Ethics of Destruction (1 September 1921). 

22 2 March 1922 

24 14 July 1920 


Roxnain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

it; and he imposes a vigorous moral discipline — that disci- 
pline whose relaxation is the mortal weakness of the revolu- 
tionary armies of today, and whose strength was the strength 
of those of the past. Cromwell’s troops heard orders of the 
day similar to those of the Mahatma, enjoining “the need for 
humility ”, for physical and moral cleanliness, respect for 
women, forbidding drink, scourging the “sin. of secrecy ” which 
is lying, or rather half-truths. The inspired Protector of the 
Republic of England understood, no less than Gandhi, the 
mystic forces in mankind; he appealed to them, and it was 
in part to them that he owed his victories. 

* * * 

I may be reproached for dwelling in this introduction 
on the combative character of Gandhi’s articles. 

I wanted to destroy a misunderstanding which would 
confine Gandhi within a nerveless pacifism. If Christ was the 
Prince of Peace, Gandhi is no less worthy of this noble 
title. But the peace which both of them bring to men is 
not the peace of passive acceptance, but the peace of active 
love and self-sacrifice. I have dared to show that there is 
less distance between the non-violence of the Mahatma 
and the violence of the revolutionaries than there is bet- 
ween heroic non-acceptance and the servile ataraxia of the 
eternal acceptors, who form the reinforcement of all tyran- 
nies and the cement of all reactions. 

A few weeks ago, after long debates about the Amnesty 
in the French Parliament, the public authorities, faced 
with little resistance from an opposition mediocre both in 
number and in quality, refused to include Conscientious 
Objectors in the proffered pardon — establishing as terms 
of their amnesty that it should apply only to those who 

Our politicians are wearing blinkers. They do not 
suspect that there is more than one battle going on in the 

Prefaces and Articles 


modern world; and the most heroic is no longer the one 
being fought at the front by the national armies. It suits 
them to remain in ignorance. Let them look around them 
— and in front of them, to what is being prepared for the 
future: revolutionary struggles, class struggles, racial 
struggles! And the loftiest of all is the spiritual struggle, 
the war fought by the Soul! 

In this work we would show them this other battle, 
which will spread gradually from India over the whole 
world. Let them crush it if they wish! Let them dishonour 
it if they can! This was what Rome wanted to do with 
the first Christians, and the time came when Rome was 
forced to come to terms with them: “In hoc signo vinces. . . 
Admittedly later on Rome corrupted them. 

But we have not yet reached that stage. As a profes- 
sional historian, used to observing the ever-recurring ebb 
and flow of the great spiritual tides, I descry a new tide rising 
in the depths of the East. It will not turn until it has flooded 
over the coasts of Europe. 

July 1924 

456. Romain Rolland’s Preface to the French 
Edition of Lajpat Rai 9 s Unhappy India 

The great voice which makes itself heard here in reply 
to Miss Mayo’s outrageous libel, rises, alas, from the tomb. 
Lajpat Rai fell a year ago, a victim to the brutalities of the 
British Police in Lahore. 'His death crowned a life devoted 
entirely to the service of India. While still in his teens he 
gave up everything for her sake. For thirty years he fought 
and suffered for her. For her he suffered long years of prison 
and exile, by which however his intrepidity was never 
shaken. He well knew that pain and death are the portion 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

of heroic souls. His own was formed in the school of Mazzini 
and he gave to India the example of this life of austere 
abnegation. In order to stir the apathy of the nation 
and to renew her exhausted blood he fed her with the mar- 
row of lions such as Krishna in the battle-field, Daya- 
nanda, Mazzini and Garibaldi. He worked unceasingly 
for her political and social uplift, for her education and 
organization, for her physical and moral hygiene. 

I admired the courage and the joy which radiated 
from that frank countenance, not handsome but attrac- 
tive because of the generous flame of his energy, his abso- 
lute sincerity, and his chivalrous loyalty. With him 
thought was action; in his eyes, sombre, deep and luminous, 
one read determination like a storm-cloud always ready to 
burst forth. But there also one saw the light of irony, a 
sparkling gaiety, a keen understanding both of human 
comedy and tragedy, of the machinery of states and the 
game of politics. 

He was a great leader. He marched at the head of 
his people, uniting in his powerful nature the experience 
of an old general with the ardour of a young soldier. 

Such is he whose loyal testimony here resists the abu- 
sive attack, • — a tissue of malice and feigned pity, of correct 
information incorrectly generalised, and of false and idle 
gossip accepted without criticism, in which Miss Mayo, 
who previously demonstrated to the world the benefits 
conferred upon the Philippines in depriving them of their 
liberty, aids British Imperialism in withholding from India 
her liberty. Like a certain personage mentioned in the 
Bible, she is publicly grieved at the sins of others, but 
takes care not to see the “beam” in the eye of her own race 
and her own country. 

“Unhappy India” cried Lajpat Rai, defending bis mar- 
tyred land, but I say “Happy India” who, in this age of 

Prefaces and Articles 


Europe of poor character and mediocre virtue, has crea- 
ted such pure devotions, and whose sacred womb has given 
birth to a host of heroes, — Dayananda, Vivekananda, M. K. 
Gandhi, and this lion of the Punjab, Lajpat Rai! 

Romain Rollanb 

Villeneuve, November 17, 1929 

457. Romain Holland’ s Preface to 
Gandhi’s Autobiography 

This great book you are reading is not an autobiography 
in the usual sense, inspired by narcissism or moral exhi- 
bitionism, as practised by the greatest writers of the West, 
Jean-Jacques and Tolstoy — to say nothing of the aesthetes of 

Gandhi strenuously denies this in his illuminating 
introduction to his book, dated 26 November 1925, which 
I regret that G. F. Andrews has omitted from this abridged 
edition. 1 

This book is about action, and written to achieve 
action; it should be the breviary of every man of action of 
our day. By this I do not mean that they ought to fol- 
low its directions. This Gandhi himself would not wish; 
he has never claimed to be an authority, only to be an 
example for others to interpret freely and in the light of 
their own reason. But everyone will find in this work an 
incalculable wealth of factual instruction on how to 
achieve action, both on oneself and on others, on the men 
and the nations of our day. 

1 Life of Gandhi, written by himself. Translated into French by 
Georgette Camille, Editions Rieder, collection “Europe”, Paris. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

With the exactness he brings to bear on every task, 
Gandhi entitles this work: A Story of My Experiments with 
Truth. The word experiment must be underlined, and one could 
as well say on as with Truth, for Truth is seen here as a 
cosmic element on which experiments can be carried out, 
just as Albert Einstein is carrying out experiments on light 
in the Michelson Laboratories in California. 

The whole book, Gandhi’s whole life is a logical chain 
of experiments based on facts; and this chain which, ever 
since his earliest childish awareness, has never ceased to 
grow — patiently but unceasingly, from one link to the next, 
broadening the thread to embrace three hundred million 
Indians, and soon the whole world is not yet complete. 
He says so frankly: 

“My conclusions from my current experiments can hardly as 
yet he regarded as decisive. ... I set a high value on these 
experiments. . . .” 2 My conclusions appear to me to be abso- 
lutely correct. . . . But far be it from me to claim any degree of 
perfection for these experiments. I claim for them nothing more than 
does a scientist who, though he conducts his experiments with the 
utmost accuracy , forethought and minuteness, never claims any 
finality about his conclusions, but keeps an open mind regarding 
them. . . .” 3 4 

It is up to us all to conduct our own experiments in 
the light of those done by Gandhi, in our own ways and 
following the laws of our own minds! 

Gandhi is thus no more than a humble seeker after truth.* 
But how intrepid are his researches! . . . And as to his 
humility, we shall see! . . . Humble before Truth, yes; but 
where is this Truth to be found? 

2 Closing pages of the book 

3 Introduction of 1925 

4 Quoted by Andrews in his Conclusion 

Prefaces and Articles 


My Experiments on Truth . . . 

Gandhi does not ask, with Pilate: “What is Truth?” 

. . . Truth is. Truth is the starting point. But the starting 
point is always, so to speak, the weak point (one might 
equally well say the strong point!) in every passionate 
logician who uses deductive reason, either in thought or in 
action' — whether their name be Spinoza or Gandhi. For it is 
at the stating point that we find the essential passion spring- 
ing from the heart of their being, the very reason for their 
existence. If this reason were lacking, the man of passion 
would be nothing; he would wither away and die. 

Truth is Gandhi’s reason for existence. It is thus 
his own Truth, and the whole of his life’s experimenting is 
aimed at checking its exactness and effectiveness, first on 
himself, then on others. 

“I live and move and have my being in pursuit of this goal. 
. . . All that I do by way of speaking and writing and all my 
ventures in the political field, are directed to this same end. 
But as I have all along believed that what is possible for one is 
possible for all, my experiments have not been conducted in the closet 
but in the open.” 

His Truth' — the Truth — is written into the roots of his 
nature; let us then look at these roots in the pure state, 
starting from his childhood. 

His nature was passed down to him by his race, pure 
and firm as steel; a race devoted essentially to action, up- 
right and sound. His elderly father was a statesman, of 
purely practical education, able to direct the activities of 
hundreds of men; his mother a woman of firm common 
sense and inflexible will-power, devoting herself to complete 
self-mastery in her religious practices . 5 

5 By means of rigorous disciplines such, as fasting, which was to 
become one of Gandhi’s favourite methods. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Moral purity, practicality and an iron will; these are 
the three essential features. 

Moral purity very soon asserted itself in the child, re- 
vealing itself in his tastes in reading and entertainments 
(which bored him apart from their moral attractions] and in 
the almost ecstatic emotion evoked in him by simple moral 
sententia 6 which would leave thousands of other children 
totally indifferent or sceptical. Later, when he became a 
man, this moral element was always the one of the two 
major aspects which impressed him the most in the Scrip- 
tures: both the Gita and the Gospels. The rest of the King- 
dom of God attracted him little . 7 8 He has admitted that 
the true religious sentiment, as it is generally understood, 
was slow to be awakened in him, and that as a child he had 
no living faith in God. He has never delved deep into 
religious metaphysics, and even less into the psycho-physio- 
logical mystical techniques of his country; late in life he 
began some experiments with yoga, but he soon tired of 
them, postponed them until a later date and has never 
resumed them; he has neither the time nor the inclination 
for them. ... It seems that though he instinctively knows 
some forms of yoga* it should be seen as a kind of moral 
yoga , combining simultaneous elements of karma, bhakti and 
Jnanayoga , action, love and reason; a kind of mean between 
the three. 

6 Such as Return good for evil 

7 There are innumerable definitions ( and manifestations) of God. . . . 
They overwhelm and stun me. . . . But I worship God as Tiuth only. . . . 


8 He speaks in his Introduction of faint glimpses of the Absolute Truth 
which have appeared to him often on his way. But they are never more 
than intermittent glimpses. 

Prefaces and Articles 


But his essential feature, from the very beginning, was 
that he was a child “ incapable of lying” ; mediocre or indiffe- 
rent, maybe, in everything else, and particularly in intel- 
lectual curiosity, but flawless on this precise point of mora- 
lity; a child of absolute sincerity, who found it almost 
physically impossible to lie and who suffered intolerably, 
not when his truthfulness risked weakening, but simply when 
it was called in question. (There is some unconscious pride 
in this; he is not as humble as he believes — and I a dm ire 
him for it! . . .) 

Such an admirable moral purity could well spread from 
sincerity to other areas of morality, and that is what hap- 
pened. He very soon became aware that the whole moral 
field was his, or should become his, and that he had no 
right to neglect any of it. (Some corners of the field did not 
prove easy to plough!) But this imperative, “do not lie ”, is 
the grappling root, like that of the ivy; wherever he climbs, 
these are the hooks by which he climbs. 

Apart from this, he was equipped with a healthy and 
very well balanced reasoning faculty, troubled by no excess 
of the imagination, no suspect mists of sentimentality of 
heart or mind. This is what he says about geometry, which 
he has enjoyed ever since childhood, without suspecting 
that children of a more dreamy or poetic nature would not 
subscribe to so peremptory a statement: A subject which only 
required the simple use of one’s reasoning powers could not be difficult. 

Furthermore, everything in his nature was directed 
from the outset towards action. His truth and reason would, 
in his view, have been still-born, if they had remained en- 
closed in the interior of his thought. In order to exist, they 
had to be realized outside himself; and this realization neces- 
sarily led, step by step, to collective action in its broadest 
form. But let there be no mistake! At the starting point 
there was no effusion of Amour Caritatis, that frenzy of subli- 
mated love for all men, for all beings, which burned in the 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

former libertine Francis of Assisi. Instead there was an 
inner law of truth seeking individual realization', he himself 
must be adequate to his profound and initially obscure ideal 
of Truth; he himself, by the hammer and chisel of his ac- 
tions, must carve from the virgin stone the statue written 
into his own individual being! He says as much, with his 
usual grandiose sincerity: 

“My national {human) service is part of the training I under- 
go for freeing my soul from the bondage of the flesh. . . . Thus 
considered , my service may be regarded as purely selfish .” 9 

And this is spoken by a man who has sacrificed his 
whole well-being, his passions, his interests, his whole self, to 
others! And he is still not satisfied. . . . 

“I must reduce myself to zero. . . .” 10 

His complete self-realization tends towards this ulti- 
mate zero which is the Universal Being — 'the Absolute, 
Moksha. . . . u 

The whole way of his life leads, with unreserved since- 
rity, towards this perfect identification of the self with the 
All; this is the natural movement of the Indian mind. But 
whereas most Indians, above all the great mystics, reach it 
in one great leap or strive to do so by the passion of ecs- 
tasy, Gandhi travels progressively towards it, by the tena- 
cious and passionate logic of active reason . 12 

9 1924. Qjioted by Andrews in his Conclusion 

10 Closing lines of the volume 

11 To attain Moksha ... the Absolute ... to see God face to face , 
for God, by his own definition, is the same as Truth. ( Introduction ) 

12 His whole deductive process is explained by him at the end 
of the book: 

1. There is no other God but truth. 

2. To reach Truth, a man must be able to love the meanest 
fragment of universal creation as he loves hims elf. 

Prefaces and Articles 


And he does not claim that he has achieved it; he is 
on the way. . . . This is a confession of astonishing sincerity 
from a great Indian man of religion who has arrived, as 
he has, almost at the end of his heroic career — a sixty-year 
lifetime full of spiritual combats, as immense as a Ramayanai 

“I have not yet found God (Truth). But I am seeking after 
Him. / am prepared to sacrifice the things dearest to me in pursuit 
of this quest. As long as I have not realized this absolute Truth , 
so long must 1 hold by the relative truth as I have conceived it. 
That must be my beacon and my buckler. ... If anything that 
1 write in these pages may strike the reader as being touched with 
pride , then he must take it that there is something wrong with my 
quest and that my glimpses are no more than mirages. . . . The 
seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust. . . . Only then, 
and not till then, will he have a glimpse of the truth. . . . 13 

This proud humility of the real seeker after truth, the ge- 
nuine man of science, brings him closer than any Indian to 
the majority of European minds. He uses the same mental 
instrument as our men of free reason, an intelligence which 
observes, deduces and applies the results of its reasoned 
experimentation to the facts it experiences. 

3. A man cannot exercise this love if he keeps out of the least 
field of life. Therefore he must participate in action and he cannot 
loftily brush aside politics with a Noli me tangere ! . . . To raise the draw- 
bridge between politics and religion, to say that religion has nothing to 
do with politics, is not to know what religion means 

4. It is impossible to achieve identification with everything 
that lives without self-purification. Perfect purity is a sine qua non. 

5. A man cannot reach perfect purity if he does not renounce 
all passion; he must rise above love and hatred. There must be no 
preferences in his affections. He who would be friends with God ( with 
Truth) must make the whole world his friend. And as for himself, he 
must tend towards zero . . . Ahimsa is the ultimate zero of humility. 

13 Introduction 


Remain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Let us follow the chain of his experiments. They are 
for everyone; the most simple mind should understand 
them. . . . 

“The conviction has been growing upon me that whatever 
is possible for me is possible even for a child. . . .” 14 

His first experiments were on himself, on his youthful 
body and mind. He had a natural taste for self-discipline, 
both physical and moral, and on the physical level he had 
something to take after; he tells us that the Vaishnava rules of 
his race are inexorable on the subject of physical cleanli- 
ness. This need for cleanliness extended to the soul as 
well; every dirty and shameful thing had to be washed from 
it, and the young Gandhi had no lack of such things. It 
tells us a great deal when we learn that this hero (a boy of 
thirteen, already married) was tormented by fear; fear of 
everything, darkness, ghosts, robbers, snakes. . . . And his 
bowels were also gnawed by the she-wolf of sensuality, of 
which he still speaks with terror today, in veiled terms. . . . 
These were his two enemies, and we know with what im- 
placable energy he tamed them (and he is not at all sure 
that one of them is still not growling in the shadows). But 
no one can tell the violence of the conflicts which have never 
ceased within him. So calm, so detached, so pure a man! 

. . . What a victory, and what an example for the van- 
quished! . . . 

Thus ever since his twentieth year he has put renun- 
ciation, self-defeat, at the forefront of the life he has built 
for himself. He does not say that this task appeared to him 
as a duty — no indeed! It was a pleasure. . . . “It appealed 
to me .” 15 

14 Introduction 

The idea of Renunciation as the highest form of religion appealed to 
me g'.eatly. 

Prefaces and Articles 


This pleasure in renunciation takes the form of humbl- 
ing the body by the most rigorous means available, and in 
the first instance by fasts, which Gandhi has always prac- 
tised — experimented with — with a strange delight. 16 

But the king of all fasts is Brahmacharya , the law of abso- 
lute chastity. This man who, by a precocious marriage, knew 
at too young an age the obsession with the carnal act (one 
still senses that he is burned by the memory of the poi- 
son which flowed through his veins) became aware rather 
belatedly of the heroic remedy which alone could liberate 
his soul. In 1906, during the Zulu revolt in the Natal, he 
meditated on the absolute need for chastity if he was to ac- 
complish his task' — his double task of self-realization and the 
service of humanity. This even demanded tearing himself 
away from family bonds, but in his exaltation he took the 
vow of Brahmacharya for the rest of his life. 

16 Nowliere is the word experiment more appropriate than in this 
case. Gandhi never tires of experimenting to find out how much priva- 
tion the body can bear and remain healthy. He is ceaselessly cutting 
down and down on his food. Sickness warns him when he has gone 
too far, and he has to retrace his steps; but he does not consider him- 
self defeated, and soon afterwards he is observed to start his attempts 
again, trying to deceive the resistance of his organism by some round- 
about way or by surprise tactics. He naively says: “These experiments in 
dietetics are dear to me as a part of my researches in Ahimsa . They give me 
recreation and joy 99 But let it not be thought that his mind is taken 
in by the game! He admits that medically there may be two opinions 
on the value of his diets (which, as well as suppressing meat, also reject 
salt and pulses) but morally I have no doubt , he adds, that all self denial 
is good for the soul . 

Fasting is thus essentially a spiritual discipline. 

A year-long vow which he took was “ one of the sweetest recollections 
of mv life”- . . . 


Roxnain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

“I must confess he adds, “that I had not then fully 
realized the magnitude and immensity of the task I had under- 
taken. Today I have still not beaten its ever-present difficulties 

It is not only the body which is concerned; the mind 
must be shut off from all impure thoughts. . . . 

“And” he says, “although neither will nor effort is lacking , 
I have yet to achieve complete mastery over thought. . . .” 

But he has not the slightest doubt about the excellence 
of the law: 

“Life without Brahmacharya appears to me to be insipid and 
animal-like. . . . Man is man because he is capable of self-restraint.” 

This is the great motto of every virile age and every 
hero, either European or Asiatic, either free-thinkers or 
believers : 

“If you want to be great, limit yourself! Renounce , in order 
the better to be the master!” 

But with Gandhi, as with the ascetes, Christian or 
Indian, renunciation does not imply retreat (although it 
tempts him: what man has not felt its charms? ). Retreat 
from the world constitutes a flight, hence a defeat, and 
Gandhi rejects it. He is not of the stuff of which the van- 
quished are made. Renunciation must be within the world 
or not at all.' 

Gandhi thus resolutely entered into the way of affairs; 
and it is noteworthy that the only living man whose reli- 
gious influence he admits — for, exceptionally in an Indian 
seeking God, he never had a guru or spiritual master — is a 
man living in his province who, like himself, is absorbed in 
spiritual pursuits in the midst of business , 17 

Among strong believers, God has never got in the 
way of practical action. We have striking examples of this 
in the West, and Henri Bremond has described some extra- 

17 The Gujarati poet Raychand, whom Gandhi knew when he 
returned to India from England. 

Prefaces and Articles 


ordinary cases in his Literary History of Religious Sentiment in 
France. 1 * But these examples have more value in the East. 
This superposition of two powers, intense religious concen- 
tration and realistic will to action, predestined this frail little 
man, setting off for South Africa in 1893 at the age of twenty- 
four as advisory lawyer to a company, to become a master 
of the peoples of India. 

For the present, he had little notion of what was await- 
ing him; but the surprising things which he did find await- 
ing him at once made his unknown energies rise within 
him. He was scarcely off the boat before he was insulted; 
then again; three, four, five times within a few days, in odious, 
brutal and revolting fashion. And this timid, stammer- 
ing little Indian unhesitatingly went forward, at the risk of 
his life. The sense of outraged rights conquered his fear for 
ever. If necessary, he would march to the scaffold. 

But his admirable sense of equity kept him from rush- 
ing into violent revolt. From his very first steps he achieved 
over his oppressors the highest of all victories: the victory of 
an unruffled spirit of justice, serene and pure, which refused 
to take vengeance. 

It would be nothing to achieve this merely within him- 
self if he did not also achieve it in those around him, whose 
leadership he at once assumed; for in them he found an 
extension giving a sense to his whole life. He is not one 
of those crabbed individualists for ever talking of themselves 
alone and asking, like Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” 
Gandhi’s soul, like Lenin, and every great soul without 
exception (and they are not legion!), is the soul of all men; 
his I is also thou. . . . “If you sin against justice and I 
know about it, say nothing and leave you free to do it, 

18 Gf. Vol. IV, Gh. V: The Intense Life of the Mystics , — that lady 
of Tours in the age of Louis XIII who was a French St Theresa,. 
Mme. Martin, Mary of the Incarnation. 


Romain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

then it is I who am unjust!” 

Thus as soon as he was settled in Africa, not content 
with demanding the rights of his people, he undertook their 
moral education, gave them spiritual uplift and directed 
them, as Moses directed his exiled people in Egypt. It was 
when he spoke to them in public 19 that the religious spirit in 
Giadhi became a living force. Mark this well, for he says 
so himself; for the Spirit within him to become a living 
force> he had to speak to the people, he had to act. Soli- 
tary meditation had proved inadequate. For a man like 
Gandhi, solitude which does not lead to action is sterile. 

This does not mean that Gandhi does not meditate; 
none has done so more intensely than he. But for his 
meditation to “rise”, like good bread, it needs the fermen- 
tation of action. Even in those days in South Africa he 
was still completing his religious education by way of 
books. But under the new light which had touched him, 
he read in them his own true religion, which is the religion of 
service: as I felt that God could be realized only through service. 

This means the service of his people; his whole people. 
For although by birth, and perhaps by temperament, 
he is a “petit-bourgeois ”, 20 as the Muscovites scornfully 

19 It was characteristic of him that the first time he spoke in 
public it was about truthfulness in business to an audience of 

20 There is no doubt about that! In 1913 at the age of thirty- 
four, when he unleashed the great strike among the Indian wor- 
kers in Natal, he admitted that he was not yet very familiar with 
that class. Even more striking; when in 1915 he founded his Ashram 
in India and decided to introduce the hand-weaving trade, he frankly 
admitted that his whole circle was drawn from either the liberal pro- 
fessions or trading circles; none of them were artisans I need hardly 
add that this is no longer the case today and that he is now the man 
most closely in contact with the Indian millions, the most popular, 
indeed the only popular hero among the poor working classes of all 
India. But he comes from the other side. 

Prefaces and Articles 


please to refer to him, he does not make the slightest distinc- 
tion between classes, and he never has done. Even in his 
earliest youth, when his mind was still not fully formed, 
he proved strangely indifferent to caste and the sanctions it 
brought to bear against him. 21 

He says to himself, and it is a remarkable feature of his 
nature: — he has never known any distinction in his heart between 
beings, be they relations, ft xends, countrymen or foreigners. This he 
says, is in my very nature 11 

When he founded his Ashram at Ahmedabad, in 1915, 
the first condition he imposed was a total denial of Untouchabi- 
lity. This was not simply a theoretical declaration, for he 
at once opened the doors of his Ashram to a family of 
untouchables. Public opinion was up in arms; he was 
threatened with social boycott, and he met with upsetting 
resistance within his own household. But he did not give 
in or compromise; he was ready to move out and settle in 
the heart of the untouchable quarter, to earn his living 
by manual labour, as they did. Only unexpected help' 
from a rich- friend avoided this public scandal, but it is 
quite clear that on this fundamental question of the equa- 
lity of classes and those outside class, Gandhi has never 
hesitated. When it is said of him that he is the servant of 
his people, it literally means the whole of his people. 

21 When his caste objected to his departure for England m 
1887, at the age of eighteen, he calmly overruled them and allowed 
himself to be declared an outlaw, saying: The caste should not intefeie in 
the matter. On his return he accepted excommunication without argu- 
ing and without being upset. 

22 On the other hand he openly admits that the other great laws 
he imposed upon himself, renunciation of sensual urges (Brahma- 
charya) and of violence (Ahimsa), demanded an incessant struggle 
with himself. These are not instincts as natural to him as the sense 
of equality between all living beings. 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Thus he serves India, because the circumstances of his 
life have placed him there, at this particular battle-position. 
But he has not the least doubt that his services must extend 
to the whole of humanity! His reading of Tolstoy 23 in 
Africa brought home to him the infinite possibilities of 
universal love. 

* * £ 

How has he “served” India? 

In South Africa, he found a people not only disarmed 
and enslaved, but used to it and accepting insults, a people 
apparently subdued and degraded. His first act was to make 
them aware of their dignity, their duties and their legiti- 
mate rights. He did not need many experiments before, 
from this sheet of stagnant water, he was able to bring forth 
the dormant energies, the sense of honour and the courage 
natural to them, for they were not so much feeble as re- 
signed. The Durban affair in 1896-1897 revealed to the 
astonished Europeans, and to the Indians themselves, that they 
had a moral backbone capable of resistance. At the first 
blow, the Indian community won the enemy’s respect. 

There was, of course, no question of liberating India 
from the Empire. Gandhi was sincerely convinced, at the 
outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, that the existence of the 
British Empire was wholly for the benefit of the world. Even 
if, before the tribunal of his conscience, the rebel Boers and 
Zulus had a just cause (and Gandhi has written that they 
did!), he believed himself bound by the duties of his 
British loyalism, whose naivety he was later to confess. 

This loyalism had not yet been undermined by all the 
unfortunate experiences he was later to undergo when 
early in August 1914 he found himself in London, con- 
fronted with the European war. He still had faith in the 
British system , if not in individual officials, and he did not 

23 The Kingdom of God is within Ton: The Gospels in Brief; What to Dot 

Prefaces and Articles 


hesitate to offer England the co-operation of India in the 
ambulance service. 

He was very slow to change. He is a patient man, 
tenacious in his ideas; when he believes they are right, 
he needs repeated and decisive experiments before he will 
give them up. 

As late as 1918, at the Delhi Conference, despite the objec- 
tions of the honest C. F. Andrews, who revealed to him the 
infamous secret treaties concluded between the Allies, he 
persisted in serving the Empire 24 and went off to raise 
recruits in India. But it is evident that from then on he 
was seriously ill at ease. Even in his arguments in favour of 
recruitment there is a murmur of revolt. 25 His conscience was 
working within him. He fell seriously ill, came close to 
death, and for the first (and no doubt the only) time in 
his life he lost all interest in life; he had no taste for a 
continued existence. The news of the defeat of Germany 
and the end of the war, which meant that he had no more to 
worry himself about recruitment , brought him very great comfort. 
Almost immediately afterwards, the Rowlatt Bills of 1919 
gave the convalescent a chance to enter openly into the way 
of Indian Swaraj — the conquest of independence. 

But all this long time was not wasted. As was his wont, 
Gandhi used it to prepare, slowly, patiently and penetrat- 
ingly, the discipline necessary for the collective soul of India 
within the Empire. 

In the first place, he extended his law of renunciation 
to those who surrounded him. By daily contact with the 

24 A clever lot, these English! This volume reveals how the 
Viceroy was able to appeal to Gandhi’s conscience by playing at being 
innocent himself of any part in the secret treaties. 

25 Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India , history will look 
upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest. ... If we 
want to learn the use of arms, here is a golden opportunity ! 


Remain Holland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

public as an. orator, a journalist and a director of conscience 
and action, he acquired the regular habit of thinking 
aloud in company. He never thinks alone; he thinks com- 
munally, as part of the people; and his genius is to make 
the whole community think through himself, for he clarifies, 
summarizes and guides the confused and surging thoughts 
of his companions. 26 

By this means they naturally come to unite as in one 
single body, of which Gandhi disposes as he would his 
own. As a general rule, in every debate he seeks the concilia- 
tion of the opposing parties, 27 forgiveness of injuries 28 and 
non-violence, but from an unshakably firm standpoint. 
Then, when all attempts at conciliation have been exhaus- 
ted and the moment comes to act, in other words to sacri- 
fice himself and his followers, he does not hesitate a moment. 
He had four young Hindu clerks whom he looked upon 
as his sons, then a danger arose, the black plague of 1904. 
... I decided to sacrifice all the four. ... — In Phoenix he 
founded a Tolstoyan colony of relations, friends and disci- 
ples particularly close to his heart. The hour struck for an 
Indian movement of sacrifice to protest against an unjust 
judgment by the Gape Court (1913) ...I decided to saaifice 
them all.... And this is no idle word; some of them died in 
the prisons into which they were thrown, women and children 
as well as men. 

26 Tins is one of the striking things about Ins journals, such as 
Toung India, which read like dialogues between the choius leader 
and the crowd, who finally take up the chorus as a refrain. 

27 He is a most unusual lawyei, for he avoids trials. ... I rea- 
lized that the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties driven asunder. 
... A large part of my time during the twenty years of my practice as a 
lawyer was occupied in bringing about private compromises of hundreds of ca-es. 

28 He personally refuses to go to law against those who attack 
him, even when the authorities require it. . . . This is a religious 
question with me. 

Prefaces and Articles 


On the other hand, when the community does some- 
thing wrong and must be punished, it is he himself whom 
he punishes; he expiates publicly for everyone . 29 

Obviously all these techniques of collective action are 
based on a principle of religious renunciation which is open 
to much discussion: 

“God hungers after devotion in man” 

Also : 

“ The devoir d sacrifice of a single pare soul could never go 
in vain” 

But remember that he has experimented hundreds of 
times with these principles or postulates, and at the end of 
the day we are forced to recognize that he has achieved 
immense results with them. 

Besides, this great leader of men has not been embar- 
rassed by his Puritanism in many dangerous cases demanding 
urgent action, in which less scrupulous men than he might 
well have recoiled in timidity. When he initiated the strike 
of the Newcastle miners, in Africa, there were ex-convicts 
among Ids troops, men who had been to jail foi criminal offen- 
ces such as murder , theft or adultery . This did not worry him. 

29 Usually by privations, haish public fasts. He tried out this 
surprising lemecly, which Europeans would scoff at, m his experi- 
ments with the education of children, which served him as a prepa- 
ratory school for his social experiments. When the pupils do some- 
thing wiong, the master fasts and suffers. Gandhi asserts that the 
results obtained from this go beyond all expectations, but he adds 
that such means imply purity of heart and spiritual fitness . Where theie is 
no tire love between teacher and pupil , these means aie out of place and may 
even be harmful . The whole secret of his action lies in this alchemy 
of love , as it has been called, by which he enchants all who ap- 
pioach him, even his least sensitive adversaries: English officers or 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

“I did not consider myself fit to sit in judgment over the 
morality of the strikers. It would have been silly of me to attempt 
at distinguishing between the sheep and the goats. My business was 
only to conduct the strike which could not be mixed up with any 
other reforming activity. I was indeed bound to see that the rules 
of morality were observed in the camp , but it was not for me to 
enquire into the antecedents of every striker 

These arc not the words of a lily-livered “idealist”, but 
of a rugged man of action; Lenin would not have contradic- 
ted them. Gandhi — at least at the starting point of his 
mass action — docs not answer for the souls of his masses; he 
answers for their actions, which he directs with strict disci- 
pline, and it is by virtue of this discipline that he forges 
the souls of the masses in the thick of the action. For the 
moment, he is beginning by gradually building up one 
sacred battalion, which he can trust, which he puts to the 
trial and does not spare. He is supported by his mystic 
hope that the self-sacrifice of one being alone can be enough 
to win the common battle — and indeed, has he not him- 
self won it? 

His “military school of Non-violence” (if I may so 
describe it) demands a long, loyal and difficult training. 
He does not attract supporters by deceiving them into hoping 
for an easy success. He begins by presenting to his follow- 
ers the exact picture of the ordeals ahead of them, . into 
which he himself will throw them. This done, he is pre- 
pared to go forward to the end, marching at their head, 
and those who follow him become aware of their own un- 
known energies, and at the same time of the restraints 
which their will must impose on them . 30 He is always on the 

30 Gandhi makes this clear: “The first duty of Satyagraha is to 
deliver those who practise it from fear. The second, more difficult 
duty is to prevent their reacting energies from driving them to the 
opposite extreme, which is abuse of force and violence.” 

Prefaces and Articles 


watch to see that these mass movements keep their essen- 
tial character, which is moral rather than political; and 
even his political action benefits from this, for it is thereby 
transfigured, its face is no longer that of a party or a na- 
tion, but of reason and universal justice. This produces 
an overwhelming effect on their Anglo-Saxon adversaries 
who, great sportsmen as they are, are forced to respect 
the chivalry of these Indians whom only recently they scorn- 
ed. As early as 1913-1914 they admitted their powerlessness 
in face of these non-violent tactics. They wish that their 
partners (for they are already no longer enemies) would have 
recourse to brute force, as is the accepted fashion bet- 
ween European armies; that way they would find affairs 
much easier to settle. 31 

31 Compare this with the confusion of Prince Gortchakov in 
Warsaw, in April 1861, when faced with the heroic Non-resistance 
of the Polish people, galvanized by the sublime teachings of their 
great bard Krasinski: 

cc . . . Must we then be murderers with the murderers , criminals with 
the criminals ? Must we he , kill , hate? The world cues to us: “At this price , 
power and liberty are yours! Otherwise you have nothing! . . No, my 
soul , not with these weapons! In your fight against the hell of this world , 
become that force of calm and love against which the whole of hell will ever be 
powerless! . . (Psalms of the Future). 

The hero of Sebastopol, disconcerted and dishonoured by the 
generous passivity of that crowd kneeling before the machine guns 
and singing their hymn of liberty, cried to them, “Why don't you 
fight? Do you want arms? I will give you arms.” They replied “No. 
Kill!” Fie did not survive the shame of it; he had himself taken 
to the Crimea, a dying man. (See Edmond Pnvat: Europe and the Polish 
Odyssey m the Nineteenth Century , 1918, Fischbacher.) 

Alas! what has victorious Poland done with the sacred example 
of her dead and the teachings of Krasinski? (R. R.’s note.) 


Romain Rolland and Gandhi : Correspondence 

Our general of Satyagraha won his first victory on 
African soil in 1914 (the treaty with Smuts); his second 
on Indian soil, at Champaran (Bihar) in 1918. This re- 
ceived little public attention, yet its importance was immense, 
for it was, as Gandhi says, India's first direct object lesson in 
Civil Disobedience , and it encouraged him to pursue his 
experiments in a broader field. On the occasion of the 
Rowlatt Bills in 1919, he decreed a Hartal (a strike taking 
the form of religious mourning, in which all business is 
halted over twenty-four hours for self-purification, fasting 
and prayers) . But despite the care he took, he was going too 
fast; India was not ripe for these great manoeuvres of Satya- 
graha and the hartal rapidly degenerated into violence. 
Gandhi at once halted the experiment and, without hesita- 
tion, suspended Satyagraha , without a thought for the angei 
of his troops, even for threats of assassination; 1 he was the